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Are Only A Few Being Saved?

The Narrow Door To Heaven

John 10:40 tells us that after Jesus escaped the religious leaders’ attempt to murder Him, He left Jerusalem for the other side of the Jordan where John the Baptist had started baptizing people. We do not know how long Jesus remained on the other side of the Jordan River; but when we come to our study, we are told that Jesus was visiting one city after another as He moved back to Jerusalem. In our coming studies in Matthew 19:1-20:34; Mark 10:1-52; Luke 13:22-19:28 and John 11:1-54, we will discover what Christ did while He was away from Jerusalem. We will be given lessons on discipleship, watch Jesus comfort Martha and raise Lazarus from the dead, hear the Sanhedrin Council agree to murder Christ, learn about the healing of ten lepers and Bartimaeus, rejoice that Zaccheus was saved, be given a series of parables and receive instructions about the future, including the second coming of Christ. While outside of Jerusalem, Jesus accomplished much. This study is the first information about what Christ did while in Perea. Our study centers on a question someone asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” Jesus will answer the question with a parable. This study comes from Luke 13:22-30.

Just A Few Are Being Saved

Our first verse tells us that Jesus was moving from one city and village to another.

And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 (NASB)

The Greek word for “passing through” is diaporeuomai. The word has the sense of passing through an area extensively and throughly. This is an excellent example of Scripture not telling us everything. We do not know how many places He visited or how long He stayed in any of the cities and villages. All that the Holy Spirit has concluded to be important is that Jesus was serious about ministry. He was not lazy and He was thorough. We are told that He was teaching.

What did He teach? While we are not told, it is very likely that His teachings included many of the parables that we have already studied. We know that Jesus repeated the parable of the Mustard Seed and Leaven. Both parables are recorded in Christ’s sermon about the Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:31-35) which were given in the early part of A.D. 32. It is now late A.D. 32. He has just recently repeated these two parables in Luke 13:19-21. How many other parables did He repeat? Did He repeat the Sermon on the Mount or the Olivet Discourse? The gospels do not tell us everything because they are focused on that which is important for us to know and understand. God never intended for us to spend all of our time speculating. Instead, He wants us to be preaching the good news about salvation, which is most likely what Jesus did in every city and village as He made His way back to Jerusalem.

Then we are told that someone wanted to know how many people were being saved.

And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” Luke 13:23a (NASB)

The word for “saved” is sozo. The word is a present, passive participle. The participle refers to continuing action which means they wanted to know how many would continue to be saved. It would be difficult for us to answer, but not for Jesus.

Israel Map 35

Narrow Door Is Hard To Enter

Jesus’ answer is similar to the parable of the Narrow and Wide Gates that is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount given about one year earlier in the last part of the year A.D. 31.

And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:23b-24 (NASB)

On this occasion Jesus refers to a narrow door of a house and tells whoever asked the question that many will try to enter through the door. The Greek word for “strive” is an important word. It means more than the English word strive. The Greek word is agonizomai. We get our word “to agonize” from this word. The word was used to describe contests in the gymnastic games (1 Corinthians 9:25); to fight, a fight with adversaries (John 18:36; 2 Timothy 4:7) or to be involved in strenuous effort (Colossians 4:12). The picture that Jesus paints is of someone very seriously agonizing to get through the door of the house. The door is extremely narrow. Only a few are able to squeeze through.

We will discover soon that Jesus’ illustration is about how a person is saved and is able to go to heaven. It may surprise some Christians that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He repeatedly teaches that salvation is not easily obtained. Salvation requires serious effort. In the parable of the Narrow and Wide Roads (Matthew 7:13-14), He said that few find the narrow road that leads to eternal life. In John 6:27 Jesus tells us that we must work, ergamozai, in order to enter into eternal life. Hebrews 4:11 encourages us to give intense effort in order to obtain salvation. Jesus’ message was that gaining eternal life is not easy and simple. Not everyone is going to go to heaven and see God. Only a few will get there!

In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said that he who loves father or mother more than Him “is not worthy of Me.” He did not mean that it was wrong to love our parents. His message is that He must be the priority in our lives. In verses 38-39 He added,

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (NASB)

His message of self-denial is required. In Matthew 12:49-50 Jesus tells us that those who are true disciples are those who do “the will of the Father who is in heaven.” In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus repeated the same message when He said those who do not do the will of the Father in heaven are lawless and will not enter heaven. Again in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus taught that we must deny ourselves if we want to go to heaven.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

The common theme to these statements about salvation is that self-denial and submission to Christ is required. This is the same message that Christ sent the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:21-22). The man’s real problem was his unwillingness to submit and admit that he could not earn his way into heaven.

Characteristic of Saving Faith -- Life of Christ Study

The phrase, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” makes the point that heaven is not for the proud but for the humble. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gave us an illustration of a tax-collector and a Pharisee. The Pharisee was proud, but the tax-collector was repentant and pleaded for forgiveness. Jesus said the tax-collector was justified because he had humbled himself.

In Romans 10:9 we are promised that if we confess Christ as our Lord and believe that He can and will forgive our sins, we will be saved. John 3:16 declares we must believe in Christ in order to have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)

It is important to notice that this verse is about humility too! Most people think that they must earn their way into heaven. In fact, most want to earn their way into heaven. Most people think they can earn their way into heaven because proudly they believe they are good people. Many when asked if they are going to heaven say, “Yes, because I am a good person.” But God tells us in Romans 3:10-12 that none of us are good. That is, none of us do anything “good” enough to earn heaven. In Mathew 5:3 Jesus tell us only the “poor in spirit” will go to heaven. That is, only those who humbly see themselves as spiritual beggars will go to heaven. The proud do not seek God, plead and beg. They think they are good enough to go to heaven. But humble people admit their sins and beg God to forgive them. Humility is the response of a person who sees his or her sins and understands they desperately need their sins to be forgiven. They respond this way because they believe only Christ can forgive them. They realize that unless God forgives them, they are going to suffer eternal punishment in hell. The proud do not see any such need to be forgiven. They are indifferent and comfortable in their condition.

Jesus is not telling us that we must do some work in order to go to heaven and be with God. Romans 4:3 and Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly teach that salvation is not by works. It is by God’s grace through faith that we are saved. Jesus repeatedly described the response of a believing heart which responds to the work of God in the hearts of men and women (John 6:65, 44, 37; Ephesians 1:4-6). Therefore, when Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” He was referring to the fact that true humility is rare! It is the work of God in the heart of men and women.

. . . Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:23b-24 (NASB)

True humility is impossible without the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). It is God’s work in the heart. This means that the humble, believing heart responds in true repentance and humble submission to Christ. The characteristic of the humbling work of the Holy Spirit is a true faith that involuntarily repents and submits. This is rare!

Yet, many will try to enter by their own works (Matthew 7:21-23). The proud are confident in themselves and what they can do. The proud do not see any need to pray, but the humble do. The rich, young ruler is a good example. He asked, “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” Many try to enter heaven by doing good works, but Jesus warns they will not be able to do it.

They Will Still Go To Hell

Parable About Who Enters The Kingdom

The parable now shifts to the end of the age and then takes a twist when He reveals that the parable is actually about them. He describes how they will respond in the future.

Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, open up to us!” then He will answer and say to you, “I do not know where you are from.” Luke 13:25 (NASB)

We are told the door has been shut by the head of the house. The people who are hearing the parable are the ones who are standing outside. They will not be able to get in. The opportunity to enter heaven existed then. Jesus warned them that later they will want to enter the kingdom, but then it will be too late. 2 Corinthians 6:2 warns us that now, here in this life, is the time to believe in Christ and seek to have our sins forgiven.

Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NASB)

In the account of the beggar called Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, we are told that after death no one can cross over from hell into heaven, or from heaven into hell. We are told that there is a great chasm and the distance is fixed. No one can change their destiny. If we fail to believe in Christ in this life, then we will dwell in hell for eternity. Hebrews 9:27 is a frightening verse.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment . . . Hebrews 9:27 (NASB)

The decision one makes in this life determines one’s destiny. We discovered in Luke 12:20, 40 and 58 that life is short and the decision we make must be made quickly. In verse 20 Jesus warned, “This very night your soul is required of you” and in verse 40, “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

But Jesus’ parable, which becomes real-life in Luke 13:22-30, tells us that when the door to the kingdom is shut, no one will be able to get in. Only Christians will enter the kingdom. Everyone else will be in hell. Then in verse 28, we discover that Jesus is describing those who enter the kingdom and those who will not be able to enter. Those who, because of pride, will try to squeeze through the door will find the door shut and then it is too late. Where are you? Do you believe in Christ and not yourself? If you have believed in Christ and not your good works for the forgiveness of your sins and entrance into heaven, then you have entered through the door. If you are thinking about trusting Christ, then pray that the door does not close.

Then Jesus says that after the door is shut, some of the very individuals listening to Him will ask to be allowed in. But He will reply, “I do not know where you are from!” Now notice that Jesus says, “Then you will begin to say . . .”

Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets”; and He will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” Luke 13:26-27 (NASB)

This is very personal. He was talking directly to them when He said that some individuals in the crowd had shared a meal with Him and heard Him teach in the streets. They were just like some today who attend church and hear a wonderful sermon about Christ. But that did not make any of them a believer, a follower of Christ. Christ makes that clear when He said, “I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” That stunning statement reveals that they were going to hell.

We are discovering an important truth that is missed sometimes from this passage. Notice these people had heard Jesus teach and they knew or believed Christ existed. Eventually, they knew He died on the cross, and some heard that He was resurrected, but they will still go to hell. This means it is not enough to believe that Christ lived, died, and was resurrected because Jesus will tell them at the judgment, “I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” This reveals that good works do not save anyone.

Earlier in the year of A.D. 32, Jesus stated that at the judgment many will try to get into heaven by reviewing all the ministry that they performed in Christ’s name.

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)

This illustration is the scariest statement in the Bible except for descriptions about hell. It is scary because these individuals thought they were Christians who were going to heaven. They may even be individuals who had dedicated their whole lives to God. At an annual, nationally well-known pastor’s conference, it is not uncommon for some pastors to discover that they are going to hell and choose to become a Christian for the first time. How many laymen think they are going to heaven because they said a prayer? They believed in Christ, but their faith was vain faith (1 Corinthians 15:2). Our study in Matthew 7:21-23 reveals that some who think they are Christians did not actually squeeze through the door and get into heaven. They never had real faith.

Chronology12 - Ministry in Judea to Ministry In Perea

Consequences of Unbelief

Then Jesus declared the tragic consequences of empty faith in Christ.

In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. Luke 13:28 (NASB)

Jesus’ message is very clear. These individuals were not going to enter the kingdom. It is important to realize that at the Goat and Sheep Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus will tell us that only Christians will enter the kingdom. It is important to note that the passage helps identify a true Christian from those who are not Christians. Revelation 19:11-14 tells us that all the Christians since the cross will come with Christ at His Second Coming. The first part of Revelation 20:4 refers to “they sat on them, and judgment was given to them.” This refers to the Old Testament saints who will be resurrected and enter the kingdom.

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. Revelation 20:4 (NASB)

Apparently Luke 13:28 describes both the Goat and Sheep Judgment and the anguish of those who will be in hell and see others going into the kingdom. In order to live in the eternal heaven (Revelation 21-22), a person must have lived in the kingdom.

Those who reject Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, end up in hell and truly suffer (Matthew 8:12, 22, 29; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Mark 9:43-44; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4). Hell is fiery torment day and night which will last forever.

Blessing of True Faith

Then Jesus describes those who came through the narrow door. As we have already discovered, these are those who humbly believed. The mark of true faith is humility which includes repentance and submission to Christ. They will eat and drink and celebrate in the kingdom.

And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29 (NASB)

During the last supper that Christ had with the disciples, He said that they would all, except for Judas, eat and drink in the kingdom (Luke 22:16, 30). Prior to the last supper, He had spoken of eating and drinking in the kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 14:15; 22:29-30: Revelation 19:9). The kingdom is real. Every Old and New Testament believer will celebrate Christ’s reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Conclusion

Christ’s closing comment is directed at the Jews who believed they were going to have eternal life because they were descendants of Abraham (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39-40). Earlier in Luke 3:8 Jesus warned them that they needed to repent if they wanted to go to heaven.

Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Luke 3:8 (NASB)

But the Pharisees officially rejected Christ. Therefore, Christ’s closing comment was that some who think they are first will be last. John 12:42 states that many of the rulers of Israel did believe in Christ. Consequently, He directed this at them.

And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last. Luke 13:30 (NASB)

Since some of the religious leaders or rulers failed to repent of their sins and believe in Christ, they were going to hell. That is, some who think they are first will actually be last.

Galatians 3:28-29 gives us the principle that among Christians, no one is first or last.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:28-29 (NASB)

But what a disappointment this would be to Jews at the time of Christ. All who believe in Christ are equal. Jews and Gentiles are equal in heaven and anyone who believes in Christ is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. We can praise the Lord that salvation is equally free to Jews and Gentiles.

How does one go to heaven? A person becomes a Christian when one truly understands that one is going to hell because they commit sins. They realize that only Christ can forgive their sins, and they want to be forgiven. True faith in Christ produces humility, which evidences itself in repentance and submission to Christ in response to understanding the Christ did everything necessary to forgive one’s sins. Are you going to heaven or hell?

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How To Walk With God

Walk with God

Moses is one of my favorite Old Testament saints. He may be my favorite because I have learned some incredibly valuable lessons from him. One of the lessons I have learned comes from Exodus 3 where Moses was walking one day and saw a burning bush. God was in that bush as a theophany. When Moses approached the bush, God told him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Now Moses did not approach the bush because he wanted a new ministry, to speak with God or to know God. He was just curious.

The conversation that followed was rough. God asked Moses to serve Him, but Moses was not interested. He had excuses. He did not want to have to speak to the Pharaoh of Egypt and eventually Moses lost part of the joy of his ministry to his older brother Aaron. But he did not completely refuse to serve God, or we would not be talking about him this morning! I learned an important lesson from that event. If we refuse to serve God as He desires, we will not realize the full joy of what God has for us.

Another event that is very meaningful to me, personally, is the time when Moses was on Mount Sinai and asked God for a favor! Please turn in your Bibles to Exodus 33:7. In verses 7-11 we are told that Moses was visited by God at a tent that Moses called the “Tent of Meeting.” Here are verses 7-11,

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. Exodus 33:7-11 (NASB)

Here we are told that it was the custom of God and Moses to meet at a tent that was outside the camp of the Israelites. After Moses entered the tent God would appear in a pillar of cloud outside the tent. Then they would talk as a man speaks with his friend. Now does that send goosebumps through you? They spent time together. Moses was a friend of God; and this they did time after time after time!

When we come to verse 12, Moses is on Mount Sinai and he is not happy. Now watch carefully.

Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” Exodus 33:12-15 (NASB)

Moses makes two statements that we must not miss. I want to take them in reverse order. The first one is found in verse 14. God tells Moses that He will go with Moses. Then Moses says, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” What Moses means is that He does not want to be alone without God. It is important to know that the word “go” that both God and Moses used is a very common Hebrew word that is also translated as “to walk.” Both Moses and God wanted to walk together! Now remember this for later. This is important!

The second important point is found in verse 13 when Moses said, “Please show me now Your ways, that I may know You!” This means that he was not happy just being the leader of Israel. He was not happy with just talking with God at the tent, He wanted to know God! Verse 13 says,

Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You . . .

But what did Moses mean by Your ways? This is an important question and Moses does not explain. The answer is found in Psalm 103:7. Here is the verse.

He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel. Psalm 103:7 (NASB)

This verse contrasts Moses to the sons of Israel. It says that God revealed His ways to Moses, but the Israelites only knew the acts of God. The Hebrew word that is translated as “acts” can also be translated as “deeds.” That is, the Israelites saw what God did such as the ten plagues in Egypt, the pillar of cloud during the day, the pillar of fire at night, the parting of the Red Sea, the bitter water of Marah turned sweet, the manna in the desert, the water flowing from a rock in the Wilderness of Sin, the defeat of the Amalekites and Moses on Mount Sinai with all the fire and lightning. They saw the acts of God—the things God did, but Moses discovered the ways of God. The “ways of God” refers to understanding the character of God. Moses wanted to understand God’s character and why He did what He did. Moses wanted to see more than just the stories about Adam & Eve, Cain killing Abel, Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah, Sodom and Gomorrah and Joseph in Egypt. Moses wanted to know why God did what He did and to walk together with God! He wanted to understand and know God. And Psalm 103:7 says that God answered His request.

If You Will Seek For Me With All Your Heart

Now, why did God do this for Moses and not for Israel? We must be careful how we answer this important question! We must be careful that we are not like an Old West gun fighter who draws his gun too fast. If we turn to Jeremiah 29:13-14 we find the answer to the question. There we are told,

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD . . . Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NASB)

Now what does this verse tell us? Does it tell us that if we will seek the Lord and search for Him, God will let us find Him? Let me repeat the question. Does it tell us that if we will seek the Lord and search for Him, God will let us find Him? The answer is no! The answer is no because I left out the words “with all your heart.” You see, if you search for God will all your heart, then He will let you find Him! God’s point is are you serious? Moses was not happy with conversations with God at tent meetings, he wanted something more! Now, frankly I think I might have been happy with that. But not Moses. He wanted to know “the ways of God” so that he could know God at a deeper level.

Enoch Walked With God

Enoch is another Old Testament saint who touches me emotionally. Listen to Genesis 5:22-24.

Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:22-24 (NASB)

Here we are told that Enoch walked with God for three hundred years before God just took him. He never died. The Hebrew word for “not” means “not.” He was gone! Why was he gone? He was walking with God. Now do you remember that God said He would go with Moses? Do you remember that the Hebrew word God used for “go” also means “walk”? The Hebrew word that God used is the same word that occurs here. This means that Enoch walked with God and Moses and God walked together. Hebrews 11:5 gives us more to think about. The passage says,

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:5-6 (NASB)

Here we are told Enoch’s faith is the reason he was taken up. We are also told that Enoch believed God rewarded those who seek Him. It is also important to know that when the Greek word for “seek” is a present participle. A present participle refers to ongoing activity. This means Enoch believed God rewards those who are actively seeking Him. Stop to think. Why do two friends seek one another? The answer is they believe there is a reward for being together. So, if we combine everything together, Enoch’s walk with God included actively seeking Him and faith was the glue. You see, one who is walking with God is also seeking the Lord. Walking with God includes seeking God.

Abraham Was A Friend of God

Another great saint is Abraham who was called the friend of God three times in Scripture. I am amazed that two of those times God tells us that Abraham was His friend (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Imagine God telling everyone that Abraham was your friend? Now, why did God do that? He did it to motivate us!

David Sought After God

David is another favorite saint. In Psalm 27:7-8 he wrote,

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:7-8 (NASB)

Now David was not a new believer when he wrote this Psalm. Yet, he says, “I cry . . . I shall seek your face.” In 1 Chronicles 28:9, David said to Solomon,

. . . serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him . . . 1 Chronicles 28:9 (NASB)

David says that God knows if we are really seeking Him. He is no fool. In Psalm 119:10, David said,

With my whole heart I seek You . . . Psalm 119:10 (ESV)

Remember Jeremiah 29:13-14 says, if you will seek Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me. And these verses say that was true of David. He sought God with his whole heart. The great saints in the Old Testament are great because they wanted to know more than facts about God. They wanted to know God as a friend knows a friend—and God rewarded them.

The Apostle Paul Wanted To Know God

The apostle Paul is another man who wanted to know God. Listen to what he wrote in Philippians 3:7-8,

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ . . . Philippians 3:7-8 (NASB)

Paul says that he counted everything as loss—as rubbish, as excrement, as refuse or as cow dung for the surpassing knowledge of Christ. Now when Paul says this, he is already a believer like Moses, Enoch, Abraham and David. He was not wanting to be saved. He was saying that his greatest desire was to know Christ.

Remember that Jeremiah 29:13-14 says God has promised,

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD . . . Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NASB)

God says, “If you seek Me and search for Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me.” I realized that God is a rewarder of those who seriously seek Him! God is a Rewarder! He wants us to seek to know Him, and this truth is repeated throughout Scripture and will reward us. When we become a Christian, our seeking should not end. It has only started! Listen to God’s great desire in Jeremiah 9:23-24.

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NASB)

God says that of all the things a man can desire, His greatest desire is that we would want to know Him. When I read that my heart cried out, Lord I want to know and understand you! Can I ask, is that your desire?

Overview of 1 John 2:12-14

Now how can we know God? How can we know God’s ways? The answer is found in 1 John 2:12-14. This passage uses an illustration of physical growth to teach us a spiritual truth.

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14 (NASB)

There are two illustrations of physical growth in these verses. Both illustrations are about a little child who becomes a young man and eventually a father. But the real message is about spiritual growth. The first illustration starts with verse 12 and ends in the middle of verse 13. The second illustration begins in the middle of verse 13 and ends with verse 14. I will combine them together.

Little Children

Notice that we are told in verse 12 that “little children” symbolizes those “whose sins are forgiven.” Then in verse 13, we are told that they know God. That is, little children are new believers. They know their sins are forgiven and they have some elementary knowledge of God. Then they begin to grow spiritually.

The Young Man

The next stage of spiritual growth is symbolized by a young man or we could say a young woman. If we combine these verses together, we discover the young man represents Christians who are overcoming the evil one (Ephesians 6:10-20). They are strong in the faith (Romans 4:20) and the Word of God abides in them. When we are told that the Word of God abides in the young man, we are wrong if we think this only refers to obedience. We must remember that in order to obey God we must know Scripture. David said that he had hidden God’s Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. Otherwise we are like the Jews, in Romans 10:2, whom Paul said had zeal, but they did not have knowledge. And if we have knowledge but not zeal, that results in ritualism or cold orthodoxy. The point is we need both knowledge and zeal to obey.

Hebrews 5:11-14

Now I want to illustrate this principle by looking at Hebrew 5:11-14 and then returning to 1 John 2:12-14. There are two important points we want to learn from Hebrews 5:11-14.

If we were to read the verses before verse 11, we would discover that the writer of Hebrews wants to discuss Melchizedek, but he cannot because he says,

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. Hebrews 5:11 (NASB)

He says these believers are dull of hearing. The Greek word that is translated as “dull” is nothros. This word occurs again in Hebrews 6:12. There the word is translated as “sluggish.” This means the Greek word has the sense of lazy. This is the reason the author of Hebrews was having trouble teaching them about Melchizedek. They were too lazy to study Scripture. So, they had difficulty understanding the deeper truths. Notice what the author says,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. Hebrews 5:12-13 (NASB)

The most important word in these two verses is the word “again.” It reveals these believers needed someone to teach them the basic truths of the Word of God again. He said again! When the author says they should be teachers, he does not mean that every Christian should have the spiritual gift of teaching and be teaching. He is saying that they should know enough to be able to teach others. Why were they not able to do that? Because they had been living on a diet of milk. He does not mean goat’s milk or cow’s milk. He means that they were living on the simple truths of the Bible and as a result—they had slipped backward in their spiritual growth. The point is the Christian life is like climbing up an escalator that is going down from an upper level to a lower level. If you stop climbing, you will slide backward.

Next, He says everyone who is living on a spiritual diet of milk is unskilled in the Word of Righteousness. He combines two thoughts. He is referring to the fact that they knew very little about the Word of God, and implies they were not living a righteous life. He said word of Righteousness. You see, a diet of the simple truths and Bible stories will miss the deeper truths of Scripture and result in immature and disobedient Christians.

Then in verse 14 we are told,

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NASB)

I think we understand the illustration. Adults eat steak and potatoes, but babies do not. So, he is saying that those believers who are on a diet of the solid meat of the Word of God will be able to discern good from evil. This gives us the first important principle in this passage is that — serious study of Scripture is necessary to know good from evil—zeal to obey!

Let me introduce the second principle by saying, that I have to admit that in my younger years if someone had announced that they would be teaching about Melchizedek, I would not have been interested. I thought it was a waste of time. Discussions about Melchizedek always resulted in controversy, speculation and, frankly, were boring. Then later when I read the book of Hebrews, I discovered that the author of Hebrews starts teaching these immature believers about Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 in order to help them grow and teach them an important truth about Jesus—He is an eternal high priest. Then I realized that I was wrong, and I needed to chew on the steak called Melchizedek. This gives us the second principle. Serious Bible study is necessary to know God AND to discern good from evil.

The Spiritual Father

Now let’s return to 1 John 2:12-14. So, we have discovered that a young man (or young woman) symbolizes a believer who is having victory over the evil one, has strong faith and is growing because he/she is seriously studying Scripture. That is how we learn the deeper truths about God, and, as a result, we pursue holiness. That is the Word of God abides in them—in their hearts and it is reflected in their behavior. He knows the Bible verses that explain the gospel. He knows the doctrines of the Bible. He knows the Bible verses that explain believers are eternally secure, Jesus is God, God is a trinity, how to walk in the Spirit and God’s prophetic future, for example. He or she is learning each book of the Bible. As a result, he is growing in the knowledge of God and is obeying it. The Word of God abides in him.

Now let’s look at the father. The only thing that is ever said about the father is that he “knows him who is from the beginning.” He is like Moses, Enoch, Abraham, David, and Paul who wanted to know God the Father. He knows more than facts about God. The spiritual father is interested in facts about God, but he wants to go deeper.

I have found that some believers are bored with the attributes of God. They know the fact that God is eternal, but they miss that this means Jesus can keep His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It is great to know the fact that God is immutable—never changes, because this means God will never change the rules for going to heaven at the moment you die. Isn’t it great to know the fact that God is holy? This means that He is not an evil God like the gods of the Romans and Greeks. The spiritual father knows more than the obvious facts about God. He knows and understands God.

There are three important truths we should not miss from 1 John 2:12-14. The first truth is that you ask yourself, where are you in your spiritual growth? Are you more like the little child, the young man or the father of the faith? This is an important step. You need to be honest with yourself. The second truth is that a person can be a Christian a long time and still be a spiritual child. A person’s age is never mentioned. Therefore, may I ask, which are you? A spiritual child, a young man or a father of the faith?

The third truth is that there are some saints who want to skip serious Bible study and just know God. So, they eagerly read A.W. Tozer’s book on the Knowledge of the Holy, or J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God or Arthur Pink’s book The Attributes of God. They want to take a shortcut to knowing God because the solid food of the Bible study is difficult to digest. But the apostle John teaches us that a believer must become a spiritual young man before he or she can become a spiritual father who knows Him who has been from the beginning.

Also, some Christians think that knowing the Bible is the goal in the Christian life, but this passage teaches that the study of the Word of God is not the goal in the Christian life. The goal in the Christian life is to know Him who has been from the beginning; and, the only way to know the Father who has been from the beginning, is to become a young man first and then, Lord willing, someday become a father of the faith.

Do see that the father of the faith seeks to learn the ways of God in the pages of the Bible and as he digs down deep, he knows and understands God more and more and that results in him sinning less and his faith increasing. Then one day he becomes a father of the faith. God promised that if you will seek and search for me with all your heart, I will let you find Me.

Conclusion

I want to close by asking, if you remember Mary and Martha? Some of us are like Martha who was preparing lunch for Jesus and the disciples because they were hungry. That was Martha’s ministry! She was great in the kitchen. Her pizzas, tacos, and milkshakes were great. But Mary was just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha became irritated because Mary was not helping with her important ministry. So, Martha pleaded with Jesus to send her sister to the kitchen to help her. But what did Jesus say? Luke 10:41-42 gives Jesus’ reply,

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NASB)

Jesus said Mary had chosen the good part. Jesus was more important to Mary than preparing food. May I ask, is there something better than Jesus in your life, such as a ministry in the church, a job, children, a hobby, or your health? Today, some believers are seeking and searching for God but NOT with all their heart! They have just added Jesus to their life. Some believers do not read the Bible regularly because it is not as thrilling as it once was! Seeking to find God by digging in Scripture to become a young man and eventually a father who knows Him Who is from the beginning is not as important as it used to be. They want a shortcut to spiritual growth. Some would never attend a study about the book of Jeremiah because believe there is probably nothing really interesting in that book or about God. The truth is the Bible has not changed since we became a Christian, but some of us have changed. Some have graduated to something better than seeking and desiring to walk with God! If this describes you, I want to encourage you to confess this sin to God and tell Him that you want to seek Him with all your heart and to know Him.

The father of the faith wants to walk with God, because he is seeking to know and understand God with all his heart, and the more he knows and understands God, the greater his joy and the more he becomes like Jesus. This is how we walk with God. This is God’s great desire!

Ungodly Character of Apostate Teachers, part 1

Character of Apostate Teachers, part 1

Our study this evening is in the book of Jude starting with verse 8. I encourage you to open your Bibles and turn to the book of Jude. But before we look at verse 8, I want to review the opening verses of Jude. In verse 1 we are told that the book of Jude is written to Christians. This is an important starting point. It is also important to notice believers are going to be called to action.

Purpose of Jude

The call to action is given in verse 3. It says,

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 3 (NASB)

When Jude says, “the faith which was once for all handed down”, he is referring to the faith that had been communicated by Jesus and the apostles. This becomes clear in verse 17 when Jude says,

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Jude 17 (NASB)

This verse helps us understand that “the faith” to which Jude refers in verse 3 is the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Since Jesus Christ and the apostles endorsed the Old Testament, the faith also includes the Old Testament. So, Jude is calling us to contend earnestly for the faith. In other words, the entire Bible.

Contending for the Truth

But notice in verse 3 that he wants us to do more than just remember the faith. The Greek word that is translated as “contend” in verse 3 has the idea of a struggle or a fight. To preserve the faith, believers will have to fight in order to prevent the faith from being distorted, twisted and destroyed. He is telling us that it will be a fight. In fact, the fight had already been raging when he wrote these words and the fight is continuing to this day.

Certain Persons Have Crept In Unnoticed

Verse 4 introduces us to those who are attempting to distort, twist and destroy the faith. Jude identifies them as a human enemy. He says they are individuals who have crept into our churches unnoticed. Notice what he says,

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. Jude 4 (NASB)

When he says “crept” in, he uses the Greek aorist tense, which means they are already in our churches. The Greek word for “unnoticed” refers to someone who sneaks in discreetly. We pointed out in a previous study that these “certain persons” are tares in the church. In Matthew 13:25-30, Jesus gave us the parable of the Tares and the Wheat. In that passage He explains that tares are sown in the churches by the Evil One—Satan. Tares are a weed that looks like wheat until both are full grown. Wheat is symbolic of true believers. Tares are in our churches. They look like Christians, but they are not. They were never Christians. So, we should not be surprised that Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:22-23 that,

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” Matthew 7:22-23

You see, many of these tares are self-deceived. Satan has sown them and he has deceived them into thinking they are believers. Other tares are not deceived. These tares know they are not real believers, but they want us to think they are. They appear to be fine, moral people. They look good. They may have a charismatic personality. Perhaps they desire a leadership position or to become a teacher—a position of status. The more evil tares want to not only deceive, but to mislead and gain a following. Jude is warning believers about these ungodly persons or apostates in the church. They may be the pastor, a church leader, an adult class leader, or a Bible study teacher. He says they are in our churches already. Watch out!

Warning – God Will Severely Judge Apostates

In verses 5-7 apostates are warned that God will severely judge them. Jude reminds them and us that God even judged His own people—the Israelites—after they had experienced incredible miracles, witnessed fantastic wonders and enjoyed tremendous personal blessings as they left Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, eating manna in the wilderness, drinking water from rocks in the wilderness and watching smoke and fire on Mount Sinai when God visited Moses. Just imagine the incredible experiences they had. Yet, everyone over the age of twenty years was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land because they did not believe in God, and their actions proved it. They were apostates.

In verse 6, Jude warns apostates that God did not show favoritism to His own angels either. He did not show them favoritism when they sinned as the result of unbelief. Even though these evil angels were created by God and had lived in heaven, God did not show them favoritism.

Verse 7 reminds apostate teachers that God did not spare five cities due to their sin. In all three examples, God did not show favoritism when the individuals sinned. Each time He punished unbelief. So Jude warns apostate teachers to stop their teaching or God will one day cast them into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever.

Our study begins in verse 8 and continues through verse 13. In this section, Jude describes the character of these apostate teachers. He starts by saying,

Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. Jude 8 (NASB)

Who are “these men” in verse 8? These are the apostate teachers. “In the same way” refers to the Israelites in verse 5, the angels in verse 6 and the inhabitants in verse 7. That is, the apostate teachers are like these three groups. Apostate teachers are like the unbelieving and rebellious Israelites, the unbelieving and rebellious angels and the unbelieving and rebellious citizens of the five cities God destroyed. As a result of their unbelief and sin, these apostates will defile their flesh, reject authority and not respect angels.

By Dreaming

Verse 8 is about apostate teachers. We are told that they behave this way because they are dreaming. Now, what does Jude mean by this statement? The normal Greek word for “dreaming” is onar. But Jude uses a different Greek word for dreaming in this verse. The Greek word Jude uses has the sense of a “dream that reveals new truth” or a prophetic utterance—a prophecy. The root word occurs in Acts 2:17 with that sense. A good Old Testament example of a dream and a prophetic utterance is Deuteronomy 13:5.

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 13:5

Here the false prophet is described as dreaming dreams. Our next example is . . .

“Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the LORD, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:32 (NASB)

For the teraphim speak iniquity,
And the diviners see lying visions
And tell false dreams;
They comfort in vain. Zechariah 10:2

Jude is saying these apostate teachers believe they have received a “Word from the Lord.” The so-called inspired dreams permit them to do certain things that are in total violation of Scripture—the “faith once for all handed down to the saints.” They may even claim the Holy Spirit inspired them.

One apostate teacher, Robert Schuller, said years ago that he was sitting in his meditation garden waiting for God to speak to him and help him know what to preach the next Sunday morning. I thought to myself, “How about choosing a passage of Scripture, faithfully study it and then teach what God said in the passage?” He received his messages from his garden. This man was an apostate. Robert Schuller once stated that Jesus did not die for our sins on the cross. Instead, He died to give us a positive self-image. That statement is heresy! While he may never have claimed to obtain new information from God by dreams, he did invent his sermons.

Sadly, some Christians, while not being apostates, are like apostates in that they distort Scripture! A woman once told me that she was not going to believe the explanation I gave for 1 Corinthians 7:12-15. She said that she had been praying and felt that God had given her peace to ignore the passage and instead to divorce her husband. She said God had spoken to her and given her peace. She was not interested in the meaning of the passage. Now she was not an apostate teacher, but she was apostate in the sense of “dreaming.” The apostate’s dreams, visions, or “Words from the Lord” give them an excuse to ignore Scripture and give approval to defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile angels.

Defile the Flesh, Reject Authority

The Greek word for defile, miaino, . . .

. . . has the meaning of “to pollute,” “to contaminate” or “to cause moral filth.”

And the word for “flesh” comes from the Greek word sarx. Sarx refers to the “flesh and blood” body. Therefore, to “defile the flesh” has the sense of sexual impurity. The message is that sexual sins defile the flesh, but the apostate enjoys the sexual thrill. So, he finds justification for his behavior and the behavior of others by twisting Scripture.

Today, the only sexual sin that is usually condemned by many professing Christians is adultery and maybe homosexuality. In the last 10-30 years, sexual sins that were once condemned by unbelievers are now approved even by some believers. Homosexuality and the porn industry have influenced the culture to grant approval to a wide range of sexual sins including bestiality. The church is quickly catching up. Many believe if it feels good, how can it be wrong? God made sex and the Song of Solomon describes sexual intercourse. So everything is okay! And apostate teachers are giving their approval. One apostate teacher now excuses the sin of adultery saying that God is merciful and would not want anyone to be unhappy. So, go ahead, file for divorce, commit adultery and you do not need to ask for forgiveness because grace covers your sin. God will forgive!

Apostate teachers also reject authority. The last statement in verse 8 is an example of apostates rejecting authority. They reject authority in a broad sense, and are willing to rebuke angels. It will become clear in the next verse that some apostates are so bold as to even rebuke Satan.

Illustration of Their Pride and Sense of Superiority

Verse 9 illustrates the attitude of superiority that they have over everyone! Apostates will even rebuke angels.

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 9 (NASB)

This is a reminder of Zechariah 3:1-2 where Christ, in an Old Testament theophany, rebuked Satan for accusing the high priest Joshua. Here in Jude, however, the situation is different. Michael, the archangel, refuses to rebuke Satan and, therefore, appeals to God to rebuke him. It demonstrates the humble attitude of this most powerful angel. Michael’s example of humility should put apostates and some of us to shame for our pride. Even angels refuse to rebuke Satan.

But apostate teachers will! I have heard some declare with a strong and demanding voice, “I rebuke you, Satan!” Or, “Satan, I bind you!” Or, in March of this year one apostate preacher declared that he had the office of a prophet and then spoke to the Coronavirus demanding that the virus respect his authority and leave the United States. That was an outrageous display of a spirit of superiority. But that illustrates verse 9. Apostates in their arrogance believe they are superior even over angels.

Jude 9 reveals a fact that Deuteronomy 34:4-7 does not reveal. Deuteronomy 34:4-7 describes Moses’ death and burial and Jude 9 reveals that Satan wanted the body of Moses. Why? We do not know! But Jude is not trying to explain the reason for the dispute. He is only trying to reveal that superior attitude of the apostate teacher.

Another Characteristic of the Apostate Teacher

Our next verse is Jude 10.

But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Jude 10 (NASB)

There are two important points in this verse. First, we are told the apostate reviles the things they do not understand. That is, the apostate speaks against or denounces others and doctrines of Scripture because they do not even understand what they are teaching.

Why? The answer is given in the second part of the verse. They understand Scripture instinctively. They operate on instinct like animals and not with intelligence. Yet, they are dramatic and dynamic because it fills up his or her bottle of ego. Like milk poured into a bottle. And then we are told that their teaching will be used against them at the judgment to condemn them; by these things they are destroyed. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37?

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB)

By their teaching they will be destroyed!

Why do they not understand spiritual things? They do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them to help them understand biblical truth. They read the text and reach a wrong conclusion. The words are understood and sound good from human perspective and logic, but their conclusions are wrong. They seek the sensational to draw a crowd. What is worse, they do not seek to accurately teach what God has said. They have a different goal. They use the Bible as a tool to gain a following and sound spiritual. Consequently, they will be destroyed for twisting, bending, and mutilating Scripture. It will be used against them at the judgment.

Woe To Them – Three Illustrations of Previous Apostates

Our next verse is verse 11. It contains the only “Woe” in the book of Jude. Then Jude gives us three illustrations of past apostates.

Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. Jude 11 (NASB)

The Greek word for “Woe” means “horror” or “disaster.” This statement reveals how great the condemnation will be for apostates. They should enjoy the praise and cheers they receive from their deceived congregations in this life, because eternity will be hell. Notice the woe is actually announced on Old Testament individuals: Cain, Balaam and Korah. But it applies to the apostates of our times too!

The Apostate Cain

The first apostate is Cain. We are told that the apostate teachers “have gone the way of Cain.” The question we are concerned with is what is the meaning of “have gone the way of Cain”? Therefore, let’s turn to Genesis 4:1 and review what happened.

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Genesis 4:1-8 (NASB)

So, what happened? In summary, Abel offered an animal sacrifice, but Cain offered something grown from the ground—fruit, vegetable, wheat, or something else. But God did not like what Cain offered. The strong implication of the passage is that Cain knew that he should have offered an animal sacrifice but refused to do it. Out of pride He wanted God to accept HIS offering! I say pride because pride is the root problem of all sin.

The second major point we need to see from this passage is that God urged Cain to not sin, but Cain rejected God’s warning to not let sin control him and he sinned anyway. The third major point is that Cain murdered Abel. So, what is the “way of Cain”? I believe the most important event in this account is that he rejected God, and, therefore, His advice. Oh, he did reject God’s advice, but imagine God paying you a personal visit and urging you to not sin, but you then sin anyway! His character was so evil that he rejected God and then murdered his brother.

1 John 3:12 says that Cain’s deeds were evil because he was of the evil one!

Not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 1 John 3:12 (NASB)

Hebrews 11:4 praises Abel for being righteous. The obvious implication is that Cain was not righteous. He was evil.

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4 (NASB)

On judgment day God will not need to ask Cain about his attitudes or motives. His behavior has already revealed his heart. He was an evil man who deserves hell and that is what he will get. The point is: apostates are evil and their deeds prove it. The same is true for each one of us. Your behavior reveals the real you! Your heart reveals who is most important in your life.

The Apostate Balaam

The second apostate is Balaam. This time we are told exactly why he is mentioned. He is an example of an apostate who seeks money. He could be a pastor, a priest, a missionary who is “in it for the money.” That is why he is in ministry. The apostate is not in the ministry because he seeks to serve God. He is there because he is serving himself. He wants to be his own boss and rake in the money, like a man in a forest raking leaves in his front yard. The more wealth he accumulates, the better.

The Apostate Korah

The third example of an apostate is Korah. Numbers 16:1 tells us that Korah was the son of Levi. He was in the line of Levitical priests. Numbers 16:1-3 tells us that he enlisted his brothers Dathan and Abiram along with 250 other men to rebel against Moses. It is obvious in Numbers 16:3 that they challenged Moses’ leadership. Why did they do this? The answer is given in Numbers 16:8-11 where it is revealed that Korah was angry because he was not made a priest. The conflict grew worse and due to his rebellious confrontation against Moses, the Lord God caused the ground to open. It swallowed Korah, his brothers and all 250 people. Eventually, 14,700 died because many people joined the protest. God crushed these unbelieving Israelites. The first message is that God does not appreciate rebellion in a church against His leaders and Moses was His leader. The second message is that Korah did not honor God’s appointment of Moses. Since Korah wanted to be a priest, he believed Moses should have let him be a priest.

Apostates are like Korah. If they are not considered to be important in the church, then they are angry and will cause trouble. The apostate wants power, the status of being number one, and to have a significant following. Such a person can become a trouble maker.

Conclusion

Now if you think there was not a great deal of personal application in this passage, then you missed the message of Jude 8-13. The passage is trying to help us identify apostate teachers who might be in your church – a church leader or Bible study teacher. Remember Jude has warned us. They are in our churches. We have discovered what we are to look for. The primary application was not written to challenge you about your relationship with God, unless you are an apostate.

But if you are a believer, you have been challenged to defend the faith once for all handed down to the saints. God wants you to be able to identify apostate teachers and flee them! Why? Think about all the individuals who followed Korah in his rebellion. God killed all of them for following Korah. The same is true of those who followed Jezebel in Revelation 2:20-23. God warned them of coming punishment.

The message for believers is that we must identify the apostate teacher and either remove him or flee him!

Ungodly Character of Apostate Teachers, part 2

Character of Apostate Teachers 2

Our study is in the book of Jude and we will be looking at verses 12-13. It is a very insightful passage about apostate teachers, and the principles that we are going to discover apply to every pastor and teacher situation. That is, the passage is actually about apostates, but has application to anyone who teaches the Word of God. But first I want to discuss a very common problem that occurs in the church. This will be background information for our study.

Leaving Feeling Spiritually Empty

It is not uncommon for believers to leave a church service or a Bible study and feel spiritually empty. It has happened to me a number of times. We cannot blame the design of the building, the music that is sung, the choir, the musicians, the people around us, or the pastor’s preaching style. In most churches those factors are well designed, planned and executed. The only reason some people go to church is to meet friends or to experience the great music. They cannot wait for the service to end so that they can go to lunch. Why? Because the preaching or teaching leaves them empty week after week.

There are two fundamental reasons why believers may feel empty after the Word of God has been taught that have to do with the listener. Notice that I said believers or Christians. I did not say unbelievers. The first four reasons will be drawn from passages other than Jude. The last reason is found in our study, which is Jude 12-13.

First Reason—Some Believers Do Not Flee Sin

The first reason a believer may feel empty after the Word of God has been taught, is that they are not confessing their sins and fleeing sin. This is illustrated in Ezekiel 33:30-33. In this passage God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel and says,

But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.’ They come to you as people come and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Ezekiel 33:30-31

Notice the people come and listen, but the words go in one ear and out the other.

Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them. So, when it comes to pass — as surely it will — then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst. Ezekiel 33:32-36 (NASB)

It is amazing that God uses the imagery of music. They like the music. They wanted to come to listen, but they learned nothing and did nothing!

In a situation like this, most pastors and teachers assume that their teaching was not simple enough, or their application was not strong enough. The concept was too complex, and the pastor needed to be more elementary. Therefore, they fill their sermons with the familiar stories and illustrations about biblical characters and personal stories, which are salted with humor that will win a crowd. But what is the spiritually redeeming value of shallow teaching of the Word of God? The tragedy is that the Word of God is minimized in favor of a sermon filled with personal stories. Where is the teaching of the Word of God?

Notice that God warned the prophet Ezekiel the seats may be filled but that does not mean the people will respond to the Word of the Lord. There was something wrong with those sitting and listening to the prophet Ezekiel. So, what was wrong with these people?

The answer is revealed in verse 30. Notice the words “your fellow citizens.” Those same three words are found only three times in the book of Ezekiel and all three times they occur in this chapter. They can be found in verses 12, 17, and 30. Now I want you to see what God says about these people who were listening to Ezekiel. Look at verse 17,

Yet your fellow citizens say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right,’ when it is their own way that is not right. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways. Ezekiel 30:17-20 (NASB)

Notice that God said Ezekiel’s fellow citizens were not righteous. They were committing iniquity. Now that there was their problem! They were either unbelievers or believers who were committing sin and not repenting. They enjoyed their sin and did not want to stop. Imagine, the people were listening to the prophet Ezekiel and leaving empty! There was nothing wrong with the prophet. The people had a problem and it was sin!

Now turn to 1 Corinthians 3:1. I want to show you an example of what happens when a believer sins and does not repent of his or her sins. In this passage the apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian Christians for not being spiritual. He writes this,

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NASB)

Notice that Paul said that he could not speak to them as “spiritual men” but “as to infants.” He revealed that they did not understand what he was teaching. So, the apostle Paul had to give them milk and not solid food. I think we understand his illustration. Little babies drink milk because they cannot digest solid food. Eating solid food comes later as the baby is more mature and that food helps him or her to grow. Without the solid food, the child’s growth will be hindered.

Paul is explaining why these Corinthian believers were not able to understand his teaching. He said,

For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

They were not dealing with their sin! If we read the book of 1 Corinthians, we will learn they were complaining, fighting and filing lawsuits against one another. One member of the church was engaging in sexual sin. The church was tolerating sexual sins. Wives were not submissive to their husbands. Couples were denying one another sexual rights. Many believers were gluttons at the Lord’s table and the list of sins continues.

What is the point? Just like the “fellow citizens” in the book of Ezekiel, the Corinthians did not understand what the apostle Paul was teaching because of their sins! As a result, they were not experiencing spiritual blessing. They were spiritually dry—a spiritual desert because they were more interested in their lustful desires!

Second Reason —Some Believers Do Not Know Scripture

A second reason a believer may feel empty after the Word of God is taught is that he or she has a limited knowledge of Scripture. That is the message of Hebrews 5:11-14.

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NASB)

Here we are told that a Christian who is always fed spiritual milk, rather than spiritual meat, will not grow in their understanding of Scripture. They will remain spiritual infants. Their spiritual life will be stunted. The sad truth is that it will be hard for them to understand the deeper truths of God and Scripture and they will not understand the difference between right and wrong. The writer of Hebrews said he could NOT explain to them a more difficult concept in theology—Melchizedek—because they only had an elementary knowledge of the Bible. Having only an elementary knowledge of Scripture is another reason why believers will feel empty after the Word of God has been taught.

Third Reason — The Teacher Is Not Fleeing Sin

The third reason believers may feel empty after the Word of God is taught is that their teacher is not fleeing sin. While it is possible that his teaching is poorly organized and his presentation is illogical, studies have shown that some of the most effective pastors and teachers in the country have very poor sermon delivery. In hermeneutics it is called poor delivery mechanics. That is, God can use a man in spite of his imperfections. Paul reveals that God used him even though he was not eloquent.

Therefore, the third reason believers will feel empty after the Word of God is that the pastor or teacher is not repenting and confessing his sins. Why is the pastor’s or teacher’s sin an issue? Because the Holy Spirit will not give him insight into the meaning of Scripture, nor will the Holy Spirit empower him. Ephesians 4:30 tells us that our sin grieves the Holy Spirit. As a result, the Holy Spirit is not free to help the pastor or teacher or to empower him. He will be like an inflated tire. He will look good on the outside but there is nothing inside but air.

An excellent example is found in Micah 3. Verse 5 reveals that the Lord—Yahweh—is speaking. In verse 6, Yahweh warns the false prophets. He says,

6 Therefore it will be night for you — without vision,
And darkness for you — without divination.
The sun will go down on the prophets,
And the day will become dark over them.

7 The seers will be ashamed
And the diviners will be embarrassed.
Indeed, they will all cover their mouths
Because there is no answer from God.

In verse 8, the prophet Micah speaks,

8 On the other hand I am filled with power —
With the Spirit of the LORD —
And with justice and courage
To make known to Jacob his rebellious act,
Even to Israel his sin.

Notice that Micah says he is filled with the Spirit. The other prophets were not filled with the Holy Spirit. Micah adds that since he is filled with the Spirit, he confronts people about their sins.

This reveals that a Spirit filled pastor or Spirit filled teacher will teach truth. He will confront sin. God will guide him in his teaching.

I know a man who was a pastor. He is an illustration of a pastor who willfully sinned, so much that he disqualified himself from the ministry. His knowledge of Scripture was shallow. The main points of his messages were always the same—Sunday after Sunday—week-after-week and month after month. His stated goal was to have a mega-church. His teaching of Scripture was always shallow. As a result, people were leaving the so-called “worship service” spiritually empty.

I know another pastor. My wife and I sat under his teaching for several years. We became friends. Sometime during the last year we began to sense a spiritual emptiness in the pulpit. Something was wrong. So, I reached out to him and he informed me that he had not opened his Bible one time during the last twelve months except when he preached on Sunday morning. Then I understood why his pulpit ministry was so spiritually dry.

These two pastors illustrate what happens when a pastor is in sin and is not growing in the Word of God. His teaching will be the old and familiar stories and will lack power.

Fourth Reason — The Teacher Is An Unbeliever

A fourth reason believers may feel empty after the Word of God is taught is that the teacher is an unbeliever. This includes the apostate. As a result, he will not know and understand the Bible. The apostate will be different than the sinning pastor or teacher because he will teach more error and frequently the application will be wrong. What he teaches, anyone could have taught and still sounded biblical. He is just a man without the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 teaches us that a man or woman needs the Holy Spirit to understand Scripture. Here is the passage.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 (NASB)

Notice that the passage says one of the reasons the Holy Spirit is given to believers is so they can know the things of God that are in Scripture. God wants believers to understand Scripture! But the apostate or sinning pastor or teacher cannot and will not understand Scripture because the Holy Spirit is not in him (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13).

The Apostate—Short Review

Now let us look at Jude 12-13. This study will give us more insight into the apostate teacher.

We have learned in our previous studies that the book of Jude is a warning to believers about apostate teachers. Apostate teachers are tares. They were never believers even though they have been in the church. At some point and for some reason, the apostate willfully rebelled and started teaching false doctrine.

In verse 3 the apostle Jude warns believers to contend for the faith—to fight to preserve the truth taught by Jesus Christ, the apostles and the prophets. In verse 4 we are warned that apostate teachers are already in our churches and are teaching error. Verses 5-7 reveal that God will judge them and send them to hell. Verses 8-9 taught us that they feel superior to other people, including the angels.

Verse 10 told us that their understanding of Scripture is at an instinctive level. They read the words of the Bible, but they have difficulty understanding the true meaning of what they read. Their knowledge is superficial. Remember that 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 says the natural man or unbeliever cannot and does not understand spiritual truth. The apostate seems religious. He may speak loudly and be dynamic, but he is spiritually empty.

In verse 11 we learned that the apostate is like Cain, Balaam and Korah. They are rebellious and unbelieving. We made the point that rebellion is a symptom of unbelief. This brings us now to our study which in verse 12-13.

Apostates Are Spiritually Empty

Verse 10 revealed that the apostate teacher is spiritually bankrupt because the Holy Spirit is not dwelling within him. There is nothing in his spiritual bank to offer anyone. He does not have a spiritual ten-dollar bill, twenty-dollar bill, a spiritual fifty-dollar bill or a one-hundred-dollar bill to give. He offers only dirty, damaged, bent pennies. He is like a car without gasoline or an electric stove without any electricity. He is like an electric washing machine without water or electricity.

Therefore, we should not expect anything spiritual from him and that is exactly the message of verses 12-13.

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 12 (NASB)

Notice that each illustration in these two verses is borrowed from nature.

Apostates—Hidden Reefs

First, we are told apostates are like hidden reefs during a love feast. He combines two interesting illustrations. Hidden reefs destroy boats if the boat gets too close to the shore and love feasts are shared by close friends. When Jude combines both thoughts together, he is teaching us that apostates are dangerous because they care only about themselves.

The Greek word that Jude uses for “caring” is poimaino. It is usually translated as “to shepherd,” “to care” or “to tend.” That is, apostates pastor themselves. He is a pastor to himself. He shepherds himself and not the others at the love feast. He is a false shepherd and dangerous. The church will have the appearance of religion but degenerate into a social club that is spiritually empty.

Apostates—Waterless Clouds

Clouds without water, carried along with winds – Here we are told apostates are like a water cloud without any water. The key word, without water, in this illustration is found in both Matthew 12:43 and Luke 11:24-26. In these two passages, the same Greek word refers to waterless places. This is where demons like to live. Jude may be trying to tell us that the apostate teacher is working for and with the evil one.

They are empty clouds since they do not have the Holy Spirit. Their teaching is empty and they not growing spiritually because they are spiritually dead. You will rarely hear any new truth from the Bible in their teaching about God or hear them admit they were convicted of some sin— because they do not have spiritual life and sin is not important to them. Because they are waterless clouds, they cannot offer spiritual water. So, those who listen to them will be spiritually dry and parched.

Let me give you an example. Revelation 3:1-6 is about the church in Sardis. In verse 1 we read,

I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1 (NASB)

This church was just a waterless cloud. It looked great on the outside. Maybe it was a big church with wonderful music, but it did not provide any spiritual water. But people will attend such a church! Now let me make a point.

I believe God allows apostates to exist in order to draw away tares from faithful, God-honoring churches. Apostates serve a purpose. Yet, God hates them because they distort what God has spoken in Scripture and can lead the faithful astray.

Apostates—Autumn Trees Without Fruit

Here we are told the apostate produces no spiritual fruit. He is barren. This reminds us of Matthew 7:12-14 where we are told that we will know apostates—false teachers—by their fruit. This illustration says they are spiritually dead.

The phrase ‘dead and uprooted’ is actually reversed in the Greek text. The Greek word actually reads “uprooted and dead.” Apostates are barren because they are like an uprooted tree. They are not receiving any spiritual nutrients from the ground. Jude adds they are just spiritually dead.

Revelation 3:14-22 has a good description of an apostate church that is taught by an apostate. It is the church at Laodicea. Most believers think that verse 16 describes complacent Christians. We often hear preachers use this passage to challenge believers to not be complacent. Verse 20 is often used as an invitation to children to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. It is a nice thought, but believers miss the point that Jesus is knocking on the church door—not on the door of a person’s heart. The point is that there are no believers in this church, everyone is dead. That is the ultimate result of an apostate pastor. A church will be filled with unbelievers who do nothing because there is no life inside!

Apostates—Wild Waves, Casting Their Shame

Notice the apostate’s “shame” is like foam. This means the apostate’s behavior may be accepted by the world, even praised by the world, but his behavior is appalling to spiritual believers. Apostates are shameless. They violate the high qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 that elders or pastors must be above reproach.

Apostates—Wandering Stars

In order to understand this statement, we must remember that stars do not wander. They have fixed orbits and appear to the eye stationary in the sky. I believe Jude is telling us that apostates are like a star that is no longer stable. It is wobbling in its orbit and will eventually spin-off. We could say they will crash and burn. I believe that is why Jude says,

…for whom the black darkness is reserved forever.

Conclusion

I want to encourage you that if you are constantly feeling empty after a church service or a Bible study, the first person you must evaluate is yourself. Here are three areas to consider in your own life before you conclude that your pastor is the problem.

First, are you confessing your sins and fleeing sin? (I Corinthians 3:1) Consider sins such as gossip, lack of forgiveness, or complaining. Notice the importance of fleeing sin in order to have spiritual understanding. Unconfessed sin blunts the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer.

Second, you can be spiritual but not be a mature believer. A mature believer is one who knows Scripture. We discovered that in Hebrews 5:11-14. 1 John 2:12-14 also teaches us the same principle.

Third, are you spending time in the Word of God so that you understand what is being taught? Once again, remember Hebrews 5:11-14. You need to be on a diet of meat and not the old, familiar diet of milk.

Fourth, are you spending time in prayer for yourself and others? God has commanded that you pray for others.

If you suspect that he is a false teacher, remember the other characteristics of an apostate in the previous studies. Use them along with what you learned in this lesson to help you make the correct decision. If you conclude your pastor or a teacher is an apostate, either speak to your church leaders and, if necessary, find another church.

Herod Threatens To Murder Christ

Christ Before Herod Antipas - Header

This study is about Herod Antipas’ threat to murder Christ and a series of very significant statements from Christ. It is difficult to determine which is the most significant. Herod’s threat to murder Christ occurred because Jesus was in the region of Perea which Herod controlled. But Christ is not intimidated. On the other hand, Christ lamented over Jerusalem and displayed His passion for Jerusalem while also revealing the timing of His death and where He would die. This event and Christ’s statements revealed that the end of Christ’s ministry was near. In the midst of the drama, Jesus made an incredible statement that gives us another glimpse into the true nature of Christ. It is a comment that is easily and often missed. Our study immediately follows the preceding discussion in Luke 13:22-30 titled “Are Only A Few Being Saved?” This study comes from Luke 13:31-35.

Herod Said To Leave Perea

Luke 13:31 introduces a new event in the life of Christ that occurred on the same day when Jesus explained that only a minority of people would be saved.

Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” Luke 13:31 (NASB)

We are told that some Pharisees approached Jesus and said that Herod wanted to kill or murder Him. The NASB says that this occurred “Just at that time.” A better translation of the phrase is “Just at the hour” since the Greek word that is translated as “time” is hora. Hora more accurately means “hour.” The meeting described in verses 31-35 occurred immediately after His teaching about how many people would go to heaven. Therefore as soon as Jesus finished teaching, these Pharisees came to Jesus and said that King Herod wanted to murder Him. We do not know if this occurred in the morning or afternoon; but whatever the time of day, it was dramatic.

There are three major views among theologians as to why the Pharisees told Jesus that Herod Antipas wanted to murder Him. One view is that some of the Pharisees were trying to protect Christ. This view says they encouraged Jesus to escape in order to save His life. This view can be supported by the fact that there were some Pharisees and leaders who did believe in Christ (John 3:1,10; 7:45-52; 12:42-43). Therefore, some were encouraging Christ to leave Perea in order to prevent His death. But this does not seem likely since John 12:42-43 states that those rulers who believed in Christ were fearful that the Pharisees would discover their faith in Jesus. Such an act could hardly go undiscovered.

The second view is that the Pharisees created the threat because they wanted Jesus to return to Jerusalem where they had greater authority and then they could have Him put to death. But if that had been true, then why did Jesus address His reply to Herod and not to the Pharisees (v. 32)? It will become clear that Christ knew the threat came from Herod.

The third view recognizes that the majority of the Pharisees wanted to murder Him and were relaying a message from Herod to Christ. The gospels repeatedly make it abundantly clear that the leadership of the Pharisees wanted Jesus to be murdered. Luke 11 records some of the more recent examples of the Pharisees’ hostility directed at Christ. Mark 3:6 and 12:13 tell us that the Pharisees were working with the Herodians in order to murder Jesus.

The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:6 (NASB)

Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. Mark 12:13 (NASB)

The Herodians were supporters of King Herod Antipas (4 B.C. to A.D. 39), who ruled over Galilee and Perea. Perea is where Jesus was ministering at this time in His ministry. Herod was of Jewish-Idumean descent.[1] The Herodians were a political group who sought the favor of Herod Antipas in order to gain power. Therefore, we should not be surprised that King Herod sent a message through the Herodians to the Pharisees to Christ. The fact that Jesus knew the hearts of men (Luke 11:17) and directed His reply through the Pharisees to Herod also supports the conclusion that the Pharisees were working with the Herodians and Herod.

Since Luke 23:8 tells us that Herod wanted to see Jesus and have Him perform a sign, one might think that Herod did not want Him dead but alive in order to see some miracle or wonder. Matthew 14:3-5 and Mark 6:14-20 tell us that Herod hated John the Baptist and consequently killed him and then was afraid that John had been resurrected as Jesus Christ. Luke 9:9 adds that Herod wanted to meet Jesus, and Luke 23:8 reveals that Herod wanted Jesus to perform a sign for him. He wanted a “magic show.”

Now why did Herod want Jesus to leave Perea on this occasion? Did some people react negatively to Jesus’ ministry while He was in Perea and complain to Herod? Was Herod afraid of Jesus and also wanted to see some “magic” before putting Him to death? Or, is the correct conclusion that Herod wanted to drive Christ out of Perea? This seems to be the correct conclusion since Christ replied that He is leaving Perea, but not because of Herod’s threat.

Israel Map 35

Herod Was A Fox

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees teaches us that He understood they were working with Herod. His reply to their statement, ““Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You” was a refusal to leave and He told them to tell that to Herod. This threat was not invented by the Pharisees. It was a real threat from Herod through the Herodians to the Pharisees.

And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’ Luke 13:32 (NASB)

Jesus called Herod a fox! Now we can be sure that some will believe that Jesus’ example here justifies our calling people names too! In Matthew 23:13, 15-17, 19, 23, 24-27, and 29 He referred to the Pharisees as blind guides, hypocrites, blind men and blind Pharisees. But this does not mean that we can. When Jesus made such comments, He was God who accurately described them. When we make such statements, we are usually angry and do not have God’s insight into the heart and character of men and women. That is why in Matthew 5:22 Jesus warns us to not be angry with someone and call them “You-good-for-nothing” or “You fool.” We are not to call people names in anger. Matthew 7:1-5 warns us to not be judgmental of others.

Foxes are mentioned twelve times in Scripture. Usually there is no significance to the term fox, but in Psalm 63:10; Song of Solomon 2:15 and Lamentations 5:18 foxes are characterized as destructive animals. In Ezekiel 13:4 the false prophets are characterized as being foxes because they are foolish and follow the impulses of their own hearts. They are liars who claim to speak for the Lord. They were to be rejected. This agrees with a proverb about foxes in the Mishnah.

Greet everybody first, and be a tail to lions. But do not be a head to foxes.[2]

The message of the proverb is that it is better to be the tail of a lion, or last among royalty than to be the head first among scoundrels. In summary, the Jews regarded foxes as destructive and worthless. It also fits Herod Antipas’ behavior. He was a proud man and a foolish scoundrel. “He was the head of a fox.” Jesus described him accurately. Jesus knew the hearts of men and His statement was accurate and unbiased.

Jesus’ Reply To Herod

Then Jesus told the Pharisees to tell Herod, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.” At first this seems to be a statement that says I am not intimidated by you. But Christ’s comment is more than that. His point is that He would be completing His planned ministry in three days and then return to Jerusalem. The Greek word that is translated as “goal” is teleioo. The word means “to make perfect, to complete or to accomplish.” Christ had planned His trip into the region called Perea. In three days His ministry goal would be accomplished and then He planned to leave Perea. He is not referring to how many people would be healed. He referred to the number of days in His plan. It is a good reminder that the results of one’s ministry must be left to God. We must plan and execute and it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Jesus had planned to return to Jerusalem. Herod must not think that he had intimidated Jesus into leaving nor that Jesus would be leaving because He was afraid. Christ was in control of what would happen to Him (John 10:18).

Bronze Coins Herod

Jerusalem and The Prophets

The next verse simply tells us that Christ would continue ministering in Perea for the next two days and then leave for Jerusalem. But notice His comment about prophets perishing in Jerusalem.

Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. Luke 13:33 (NASB)

The Greek word that is translated as “it cannot be that” is endechomai. It means “to be possible, to be thinkable.”[3,4] Jesus is not saying that all of the prophets died in the city of Jerusalem, but that “it cannot be thinkable” that any prophet would die some other place than in Jerusalem.[5] Our English translations can mislead us into thinking that all of the prophets died in Jerusalem. The English Standard Version (ESV) captures the correct essence of verse 33,

Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. Luke 13:33 (ESV)

The Holman Christian Standard Bible also captures the same sense.

Yet I must travel today, tomorrow, and the next day, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem! Luke 13:33 (HCSB)

The fact that many of the prophets were not martyred in Jerusalem also supports this translation. While it is true that Moses did not die in Jerusalem but on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 32:49-52), it is important to note that he was not martyred. He died a natural death. The following prophets also were not martyred either: Joshua died in Timnathserah in Ephraim (Joshua 24:29-30). Samuel died near Jerusalem in Ramah (1 Samuel 25:1). Tradition states that Jeremiah died in Egpyt,[6] Ezekiel died in Babylon,[7] and Daniel died in Babylon.[8] Traditions about the deaths of other prophets are given in the Lives of the Prophets, a pseudepigraphal book.

But John the Baptist was a martyred prophet. He was martyred in Galilee and not in Jerusalem. One of the most notable prophets who died in Jerusalem was Isaiah. Hebrews 11:32-38 lists many prophets who had been murdered but not all of them were murdered in Jerusalem. When Hebrews 11:37 states that some prophets “were sawn in two” it is believed that this refers to the prophet Isaiah due to a tradition related in The Martyrdom Of Isaiah (2nd Century A.D.).[9,10] It is believed that he died near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.

A review of the historical accounts of martyred prophets reveals that every prophet did not die in Jerusalem. Yet, earlier in Luke 11:47-51 Jesus referred to “the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who were killed between the altar and the house of God.” When He said these words, He included Abel as a prophet even though Scripture never calls Abel a prophet. Therefore, it seems that Jesus is referring to prophets who were martyred in Jerusalem whom we may not know. Therefore, the correct translation supports the facts of history. Some prophets were martyred in Jerusalem, but not all. Christ’s point was the prophets who were murdered by the religious leaders should have died in Jerusalem, the location of the temple, the center of worship.

Christ alluded to the location of His own death. He also referred to Himself as a prophet. Moses had prophesied of His coming in Deuteronomy 18:15-18. John the Baptist had been asked if he, John, was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and he replied, “No” (John 1:21). When the people in Christ’s hometown of Nazareth rejected Him, He referred to Himself as a prophet (Matthew 13:57). Matthew 21:11 reports that at the time of the Triumphal Entry the people called Christ a prophet. Jesus was our Savior, Prophet, High Priest, King and God. Jesus was simply saying that His death, the death of a prophet, should occur in Jerusalem and not some other place. In fact, the greatest of all the prophets should be martyred in Jerusalem. No other city was more fitting.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Then Jesus lamented that the city of Jerusalem would kill prophets.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” Luke 13:34-35 (NASB)

The repetition of the name Jerusalem adds emphasis. It was typical to repeat a word to add emphasis. Jesus said that Jerusalem had a habitual pattern of killing and stoning the prophets. The Greek tense for “kill” and “stones” are both present participles. That is, Jerusalem had killed and would continue to kill prophets. Jesus was soon to be the next prophet that Jerusalem would kill, but He would not die by stoning. He would die by crucifixion. Isaiah was sawed in half. Jerusalem did not care for its prophets. In Matthew 5:11-12 and Matthew 23:31, Jesus had said the prophets were killed by the religious leaders and His death would not be any different.

When Jesus said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together,” He referred to God’s repeated call to His people to return. We must remember that many of the Old Testament prophets called the people in Judah to repent and turn to God. But they refused. As a result, the Babylonian Army invaded Judah, conquered Jerusalem and deported its civilians. After the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews returned to Jerusalem. One would think they would have learned their lesson, but the book of Malachi reveals that they responded with indifference to God. It becomes apparent the priests did not love God, did not teach the law, husbands divorced their wives, and they did not give tithes to God. They were godless and self-centered. They were not interested in a relationship with God. This helps to explain Christ’s comment, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” God had called them to Himself through the Old Testament prophets, but they repeatedly refused the appeals of the prophets.

Notice that once again Christ reveals that He claimed to be God. He said, “I wanted to gather your children together.” Notice the word “I.” This is another claim to be the God of the Old Testament.

Jews Will Be Removed From Jerusalem

As a result Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate.” The Greek word for “left” is aphiemei. It is in a present passive which means this will happen to them. God would cause this to happen. Jesus referred to the future invasion of the Roman Army in A.D. 70. Later in Luke 21:20-24 Jesus provided more information about the destruction of Jerusalem and that the Jews would be removed from the city. The Roman Army annihilated every Jew and leveled the city walls. There was not one stone left upon another when the Roman army was finished with Jerusalem. In the years that followed, Jews were prevented from returning to the city. The city was truly emptied of Jews.

Chronology 13 - Life of Christ Study

Prophesy Of The Triumphal Entry

Jesus’ final comment to this group of Pharisees is prophetic.

You will not see Me until the time comes when you say, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” Luke 13:35

Jesus tells these religious leaders they will not see Him again until they hear the statement, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” When did they hear this statement again?

It occurred five months later during Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John state that the crowd shouted “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; John 12:13). The gospel of Luke changes the statement slightly, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” When a crowd is shouting in excitement, it is common for variations of a statement to occur. It may be that Luke heard an alternate variation and that is the one he recorded. It is clear the statement is accurate. Christ was the King and He did come in the name of the Lord. He came to do the will of the Father (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; 10:16; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-39, 57; 8:18; Hebrews 10:8-9).

Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus

Conclusion

Christ came to do the Father’s will. He came in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Herod’s threat reveals that God the Father was drawing the focus of the political and religious leaders to Jerusalem. Christ was finishing His ministry in Perea and then He would move to Jerusalem. That is where He would die. Jerusalem would soon be the focus of heaven, hell. Jerusalem would murder the Prophet prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15. The city that God loved would murder the Savior of the world.

In Joel 3:17 God declares that in the millennial kingdom Jerusalem will be different. It will be His city. He will reign as king over the city. It will be the capitol of the world. It will be holy!

Then you will know that I am the LORD your God,
Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy,
And strangers will pass through it no more.
Joel 3:17 (NASB)

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.
Zechariah 14:16-17 (NASB)

 

References:

1. Josephus. The Antiquities of the Jews. book 14, chap 15, section 2.

2. Joel Neusner. The Mishnah. Yale University Press. 1988. Abot. 4.15., p. 683.

3. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible Societies. 1989, vol. 2 p. 668.

4. Moulton and Milligan. Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. Hendrickson Publishers. 1997. p. 212.

5. F. Godet. The Gospel of Luke. Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1887. p. 362.

6. Lives of the Prophets, 2.1. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 2., 386.

7. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 3.1, p. 388.

8. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 4.1, p. 390.

9. The Martyrdom Of Isaiah, 5.1-2. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 2., 163.

10. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 1.1-3, p. 385.

Last Judgement by Sprangler Icon

Judgement of All the Ungodly Apostates

Last Judgement by Sprangler

Recently, a woman told me that hell does not exist, and after I told her that the Bible strongly states that hell exists, she urged me to listen to a teacher on the Internet that would help me understand that hell does not exist. I responded by sending links to a number of articles on NeverThirsty.org about hell and warned her that she was listening to a false teacher. She quickly replied claiming that she was not a heretic. I was surprised that she said she was not a heretic. Eventually, she became insulting and the conversation ended.

I told you about this event because our study is about judgment and hell. Our study will begin with Jude 14. It is about the judgment of apostate teachers, or false teachers. But first I want you to understand seven facts about judgment and hell before we start our study.

First Fact — Judgment is Certain

The first important fact about judgment and hell is that they are certain. They are going to happen. Jesus referred to hell eleven times in the gospels. The first time he mentioned hell is mentioned is in Mathew 5:22.

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matthew 5:22 (NASB)

Notice that Jesus refers to hell as a fiery place. This reveals Jesus believed in a literal hell, fiery place, where some people will be sent for eternity. Then, as if that was not enough, He referred to hell two more times in verses 29-30.

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (NASB)

Then Jesus affirms the existence of hell and that some people will go there (Matthew 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:45, and Luke 12:5). Jesus believed in a literal Hell. There is no doubt that hell is a real place.

In all four gospels, Jesus also warns us that judgment will occur twenty-two times. These statements affirm that Jesus believed in judgment and in hell or He would not have referred to them so many times. In Hebrews 9:27, the sobering statement is made that after we die we will be judged. Jesus clearly tells us that judgment is certain and hell is certain.

Second Fact — Judgment Is Determined Using Impartial Standards

The second fact about judgment is that God uses impartial standards when He judges. Romans 2:11 states,

For there is no partiality with God. Romans 2:11 (NASB)

The Greek words that are translated as “no partiality” literally mean “to not accept a face.” That is, God does not look at a person’s face before He makes a decision. He does not consider your bank balance or if you are great or small. All of God’s decisions are holy and just. I want to encourage you to read Ephesians 6:9 and 1 Peter 1:7 which also state that God is impartial.

But by what standards does God judge people? Jesus gives us one standard in Matthew 12:36 when He says,

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB)

Jesus is very clear here! Jesus said the words people have spoken in this life will be used to condemn them or justify them. In 1 Timothy 5:24 we are also told that God will use a person’s sins to condemn them. Romans 2:6-8 says it this way,

. . . who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS . . . Romans 2:6-8 (NASB)

Romans 2:16 gives another standard when it tells us that people cannot hide their secret thoughts, attitudes and desires, whatever they are. For He knows your secret sins and what you do when no one is looking.

. . . on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:16 (NASB)

At this point, if you are a believer, you might be concerned. You may be wondering, “Will God judge my sins? Will I have to stand trial?” If you are concerned, then Romans 8:1 will give you comfort. It says,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NASB)

This verse should encourage you. Believers will never be condemned. You might wonder why. Romans 5:1 answers the question. It tells us that every believer is declared to be righteous at the moment they believed in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. That is, believers are legally declared to be righteous or holy, even though believers may not be in practice. When a believer does sin, 1 John 2:1 tells us that Christ defends us against any condemnation. Jesus is our Advocate. The only reason believers will not go to hell is because Christ died for our forgiveness.

Therefore, believers will not go hell, but unbelievers will go to hell. God will judge with impartial standards—both believers and unbelievers. But the judgments have different results.

Third Fact — Judgment Will Be Public

The third fact about judgment is that judgment will be done in public. For the believer the judgment is an awards ceremony. It will be a time of rejoicing, but for unbelievers the judgment will be embarrassing and fearful. That is the message of Luke 11:29-32.

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:29-32 (NASB)

Notice that we are told on Judgment Day the Queen of the South and the men of Nineveh will stand up and tell the people who were living during the time that Jesus was present on earth that they deserved hell. This verse also reveals that everyone will hear about the sins every unbeliever has committed. This means that everyone will hear every horrible sin every unbeliever has committed. So, judgment is certain, is impartial, and will be public.

Fourth Fact — Judgment Will Be Given In Various Degrees

The fourth fact about judgment is that it will result in various degrees of punishment. Luke 10:13-15 paints a clear picture.

Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! Luke 10:13-15 (NASB)

Notice the phrase “more tolerable.” The Greek word for this phrase has the sense of being more bearable. It implies some unbelievers will receive a severer punishment than other unbelievers. This seems difficult to imagine since hell is described as a place of torment (Luke 16:23, 28), a place of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), a fiery place (Matthew 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:43; James 3:6), a place of darkness (Matthew 8:12), and a place where no one dies and the fire never ceases to burn (Matthew 9:44). I do not know how this will happen. Maybe God will turn up the flames in different parts of hell. So, judgment is certain, is impartial, will be public and will result in varying degrees of suffering.

Fifth Fact — Judgment Will Be Eternal

The fifth fact about judgment is that it is eternal. Maybe the clearest statement in the gospels is found in Matthew 25:46,

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46 (NASB)

Here we are told that everyone will live forever. The only question is where will you live forever? Every unbeliever will suffer eternal punishment, but since there is no condemnation for believers, they will have eternal life. So, judgment is certain, is impartial, will be public, will result in varying degrees of suffering and be eternal.

Sixth Fact — Judgment Has A Fixed Day

The sixth fact about judgment is that God has determined a fixed day for judgment to occur. Listen to Acts 17:31.

. . . because He has fixed a day in which He will judge . . . Acts 17:31 (NASB)

The location of the judgment of unbelievers is described in Revelation 20:11-15.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. Revelation 20:11-12 (NASB)

It is called the great white throne judgment. If you want to know how the trials for the unbelievers will be conducted, read Revelation 20:11-15. It tells us that God will open the books and review their every deed. So, judgment is certain, is impartial, will be public, will result in varying degrees of suffering, will be eternal, and the judgement day is fixed. It is coming!

Seventh Fact — Christ, Angels, and Believers Are The Judge

The seventh fact about judgment is found in our study which begins with Jude 14.

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Jude 14-15 (NASB)

Here Jude refers to “these men.” Verse 8 also refers to these men. They are the apostates referred to in verse 4. In verse 4 Jude calls them “certain persons” who have crept into our churches unnoticed or secretly. We discovered in our study of verse 4 that these are not men and women who once were saved and then lost their salvation.

Apostates are tares. In the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat, Jesus explained that tares, which are weeds, symbolize unbelievers whom Satan has placed into our churches and wheat are believers. Tares look like believers. They have learned how to behave to impress others. Satan has deceived them into thinking they are believers or Christians. By their own efforts they will look very good, but they are not real and were never real believers. At some point the apostate becomes a pastor or a Bible study teacher and starts teaching false doctrine. So, “these men” refers to apostates.

The Prophet Enoch

Jude tells us that the Enoch about whom he wrote is the Enoch who was in the seventh generation from Adam. This helps us identify the man Enoch. He is the Enoch we find in Genesis 5:1-24.

But the puzzling part about Jude’s statement is that a search of the Old Testament reveals that there are no prophecies in Genesis 5 or in any other part of Scripture that were given by Enoch. You can do a search for Enoch. He only appears in Genesis 4:17-18; 5:18-24; 1 Chronicles 1:3; Luke 3:37; Hebrews 11:5 and then here in Jude 14. Yet, we cannot find in Scripture any prophecy that was given by Enoch.

The Book of Enoch

Therefore, I want to take a few minutes and alert you to a problem with this verse. Many people claim that Jude copied the prophecy from a Jewish apocryphal book which we believe was written in either the first century B.C. or in the first century A.D. The Greek scholar R. H. C. Lenski states the date is problematic (p. 640). That is, there is great debate. Do not let some critic deceive you into thinking the date is certain—it is not. This means the Book of Jude may have been written before or after the Book of Enoch. It is also important to know that the Book of Enoch was rejected by the early church as not being inspired.

Sadly some with a low view of Scripture claim that Jude copied this prophecy from the uninspired Book of Enoch and included it in the Book of Jude. But such claims miss the point that Jude did not copy from the Book of Enoch for three reasons.

First, if we compare the Greek texts of the prophecy in the Book of Enoch to that in the Book of Jude, we find that Jude did not quote the Book of Enoch because there are significant differences. For example, the Greek word kurios, which means Lord, occurs in the quote in the Book of Jude but is missing in the Book of Enoch. Second, there are significant differences between three important words in the prophecy. Third, the most important point is that the prophecy in the Book of Jude has only 29 words but the prophecy in the Book of Enoch has 36 words. That is significant. That means Jude did not copy from the Book of Enoch.

Now this leaves us with another question. Where did Jude get this prophecy? One answer that has been suggested is that Jude knew of some oral Jewish tradition and borrowed it. But that cannot be proven. But whatever the answer, we know that the prophecy is authentic since the Holy Spirit directed Jude to put it into the Book of Jude. We must remember that 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that the Holy Spirit moved the authors of Scripture to write what they wrote. This means the Book of Jude is inspired and without error.

Meaning of Enoch’s Prophecy

Now we are ready to discover the meaning of verse 14. The prophecy says,

Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all . . . Jude 14 (NASB)

Who are the holy ones? The answer is they are all the angels of heaven and the believers of all the ages. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 25:31,

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Matthew 24:29-31 (NASB)

Notice that all the angels will be coming with Jesus at His Second Coming. Revelation 4:11 tells us that there are myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels in heaven. That is a lot of angels. What an incredible army! In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 we read,

. . . the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 (NASB)

Here we learn that angels will come with Christ to deal out retribution or punishment on the unbelievers. Verse 9 seems to suggest that the angels will be the ones tossing unbelievers into hell or the lake of fire. You will find similar statements in Matthew 13:30, 40-43, 49-50.

His holy ones also include believers since Revelation 19:8-11 describes the Second Coming of Christ and tells us that believers are holy ones who will be coming with Christ.

Description of Apostates To Be Judged

Verse 15 describes those whom the holy ones will judge. I want you to notice that the word “all” is used four times in this verse.

  • Execute judgment on all
  • Convict all the ungodly . . .
    — of all their ungodly deeds
    — of all the harsh things spoken against God.

The apostates are being described. Notice they will be judged for all their ungodly deeds and all their ungodly words. Jude emphasizes the ungodliness of the apostates. He says, “convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly—deeds and words.” All the harsh things references words spoken against God. The Greek word for “harsh” literally means “hard.”

For example, in our lifetime some have said, “God is dead.” Jesus had sex with the prostitute Mary Magdalene. Jesus married and had a family. Jesus was homosexual. Yahweh was a pagan god. Yahweh does not answer prayer! God is not fair! Jesus and John were homosexual lovers. God is evil.

Wow! The judgment is going be terrible and embarrassing when they stand before a sovereign, powerful, and holy God! Jesus said that we need to fear Him who can destroy both body and soul (Matthew 10:28).

Some of The Apostates Deeds & Words

Verse 16 may seem to be an odd verse and out of place. But it is not out of place. It further describes some of the apostate’s ungodly deeds and words in verse 15.

These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. Jude 16 (NASB)

Grumblers

The first sin says that apostates are “grumblers.” The Greek word for grumblers is goggustes. The word sounds like its meaning. It refers to someone who unintelligibly mutters—maybe quietly. They are unhappy, but do not speak very loudly. The same word was used of Israel when they muttered against God in the wilderness. This helps us understand the apostate who asks, “Why doesn’t God help me?” They constantly grumble, but usually not publicly. That would affect their reputation.

Finding Fault

The second sin says the apostate is a fault finder. The Greek word actually refers to “blaming.” That is, apostates blame God. The apostate is unhappy with life and they will find someone to blame for their every unhappiness, especially God. Can I ask? Are you like an apostate? Do you always blame others for your unhappiness?

Following After Their Own Lusts

The phrase “following after their own lusts” means that their lusts drive them. Their real problem is that they are enslaved to their own desires. They are not committed to obeying the Word of God. Today 70% of men and 33% of women watch porn. Gluttony is also a major issue today. Just watch the advertisements about dieting and exercise. The television and pop-up ads on the iPhone, iPad, or computer tell us how people spend their money—or businesses would not advertise. The self-centeredness of some people has been revealed during the current pandemic. They only cared about themselves. Their hoarding has resulted in some people having trouble finding food and other supplies. That is a characteristic of the apostate. He does not love others.

Speaking Arrogantly

The meaning of the next sin, “speaking arrogantly,” literally means someone who is “loud mouthed,” “bombastic” or “pompous.” That describes many false teachers—apostates. They are bombastic in the pulpit. We can hear the amens during his or her shouting. Oh, he is impressive, but he lacks grace, dignity, humility and the Holy Spirit.

Flattering People for the Sake of Gaining an Advantage

The last sin of “flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” refers to someone who tells people what they want to hear in order to gain something. For the apostate, this means he or she teaches what the congregation wants to hear. The truth is not important. The misapplication is not important. They are like the priests in Malachi 2 who adjusted their teaching to please the people. 2 Timothy 4:3 describes a congregation that wants their ears tickled, so they accumulate teachers according to their own desires.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NASB)

So, judgment is certain, is impartial, will be public, will result in varying degrees of suffering, will be eternal, has a fixed judgment day and will be executed by Christ and His holy ones. Our God is holy and just and will not allow evil to go unpunished.

Conclusion

I want to close by asking why are these 3 verses included in Jude? This is always a good question. It helps us understand the purpose of a chapter or a verse.

The answer to the question is found in the holiness and justice of God. Let me explain.

In Hosea 4:6, 8-9 we find that God told the false priests who did not teach the Word of God and sinned that he would repay them for their deeds. They would not go unpunished. Why did He say that? The answer is that He is holy and just. He judges evil. That is the message to apostates in Jude 14-16.

It reminds us of Romans 12:19. It quotes God, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” It also reminds us of Deuteronomy 32:3-4 where Moses praises God.

For I proclaim the name of the LORD;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 (NASB)

When Jude 14-16 describes the future judgment on apostates, it comforts believers that God does not wink at sin, and it gives glory to God. It glorifies God.

Wheat and Tare icon

Remember, Apostate Teachers Are Among Us

Wheat and Tare

Our study tonight is in the book of Jude, and we are going to discover that the Holy Spirit urges us to remember the words of the apostles that apostate teachers are among us! We are in Jude 17-19 and this is the first part of Jude’s final comments about apostate teachers. I want to start by reading this passage.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 17-19 (NASB)

There are three important points in these verses that we need to understand in order to grasp what Jude is trying to teach us.

1) Apostates Are Among Us

The first point is that the apostles had already warned believers that apostate teachers were among them. For Jude says, “Remember the words . . . “ But Jude does not mention that Jesus had also urged the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount to beware of false prophets. Jude may have simply referred to some recent warnings made to the apostles. But listen to Jesus in Matthew 7:15.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB)

Notice that Jesus describes false prophets and teachers or apostate teachers as being ravenous wolves inwardly. Jesus’ point is that on the outside they look like sheep but they are not believers. They are unbelievers who teach the Word of God distorting what God wrote in the Bible in some way.

The apostles Paul and Peter also warned about false or apostate teachers. For example, the apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-30 about false teachers with these words.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30 (NASB)

Here Paul says, “Be on guard.” In his warning he used the same description that Jesus used. False teachers are wolves—dangerous wolves—and do not really care about the congregation. They would rather eat them. Paul adds that they use the congregation for personal gain and to create a great following. Their goal is not to accurately teach Scripture. I knew a pastor some years ago who blatantly told me his goal was a one thousand member church. He designed his messages to grow the size of his church.

The apostle Peter also wrote a warning about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 (NASB)

Once again notice the warning—false teachers operate secretly. Peter adds that they secretly introduce destructive heresies. Some of the most daring apostate teachers will deny Jesus. This is an interesting comment that reveals a teacher or pastor can be a false teacher or an apostate without denying the deity of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, most Christians think that the way a false teacher can be identified is that they deny Christ, but that is not necessarily true. Even demons believe Jesus is God and, yet, they are going to hell.

The apostle John has also warned us about false teachers in 1 John 4:1, 2:18-19, and 2 John 7. In 2 John 7 the apostle warns us that false teachers are so dangerous that we must not greet them or share a meal with them.

Jude’s first point is that the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ have warned us about apostate teachers.

2) Apostate Teachers Are Mockers

The second important point to notice in Jude 17-19 is that the mockers in verse 18 is another description of the false or apostate teachers.

. . . mockers following after their own ungodly lusts. Jude 18 (NASB)

The Greek word that is translated as “mockers” has the sense of mocking, scoffing, or rejecting biblical truths—doctrines! Jude is describing teachers and pastors who were already in the church, who rejected the historic biblical truths given to us by Christ and the apostles. As I have already said, usually we think that false teachers are easy to identify. Those who blatantly, openly, and daringly deny that the Bible is inspired, that Jesus is God, Christ was virgin born, salvation is by faith alone, or that we are sinners are apostate teachers. That is, they mock the truth of the Bible. But that is not the message of Christ and the apostles.

One of the easiest ways for an apostate teacher to distort Scripture is to just avoid the parts of Scripture they do not like. For example, in Lamentations 2:14 Jeremiah said,

Your prophets have seen for you
False and foolish visions;
And they have not exposed your iniquity. . . Lamentations 2:14 (NASB)

Jeremiah was describing false prophets. Notice that he said that they did not expose the people’s iniquity. They just did not talk about sin. They were selective in their teaching. The goal was to please the congregation and obtain approval.

The priests described in the book of Malachi were also guilty of being partial in their instruction! They selected only the positive passages in Scripture and ignored the ones dealing with sin. In Ezekiel 22:26 the priests of Israel were rebuked for not making a distinction between what was holy and evil. In Isaiah 30:10 we are told that the people asked the prophet Isaiah to speak only pleasant words. Listen to the people’s request of the prophet Isaiah.

. . .“You must not see visions”;
And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions. Isaiah 30:10 (NASB)

We saw in 2 Peter 2:18-19 that false prophets told the people that they had freedom to do as they pleased. Be positive and avoid the negative! Be positive thinkers! If you think that such preaching is only a modern-day preaching style, it is not. It is an old trick of false teachers. People love it.

Just like the false prophets and priests of old, many pastors and teachers of today minimize or ignore sin and emphasize the positive. The standard is that sermons must be uplifting. So, the major and minor prophets are typically ignored because they deal with sin and death. A careful reading of the New Testament epistles reveals that most of them are refuting false doctrine. All of 1 and 2 Corinthians is a rebuke of the believers at the church of Corinth that they are committing one sin after another. Yet, if you listen to the average Sunday morning sermons of today, they are consistently filled with the positive. How to have victory in the Christian life. How to be blessed by God. How to raise a godly family. How to have a happy marriage. Now there is nothing wrong with such messages, but a steady diet of that leaves the congregation with a distorted understanding of what God wrote in His book. The messages become focused on self. We start becoming consumed with ourselves and not God. Just avoid the truth that it may be God’s will for you to suffer as righteous Job suffered. Avoid other parts of Scripture that we do not like to hear. These are examples of how false teachers mock Scripture! They do not respect all of it.

Sadly, when a false teacher selectively teaches Scripture, he distorts its meaning. If the false teacher does not like some doctrines or parts of Scripture, he or she just ignores those parts. The result is that the congregation never hears all of Scripture taught and their theology becomes warped. They do not grow spiritually as they should, and God is not honored.

I was surprised on one occasion when a pastor told me that he did not teach doctrine because it was boring! What he really said was that God is boring since theology is the study of God. The false prophets and priests described in the Old and New Testaments emphasized the positive. They were partial in their teaching.

The result of such teaching was illustrated some years ago by the chairman of the leadership team in an good sized evangelical church when he announced to the congregation that parts of the New Testament did not apply today. He said portions are now archaic. That is a good example of blatant false teaching. One wonders if his conscience troubled him. That is, was he convicted by the Holy Spirit within? He mocked Scripture! Jude says false teachers mock Scripture and follow after their own ungodly lusts or desires.

So apostate teachers falsely teach Scripture by selectively teaching it. The more daring boldly and openly disagree with it. But how can this happen in a church? The answer is found in verse 19.

3) Apostate Teachers Are Unbelievers

Jude has reminded us that the apostles have warned us that apostate teachers mock Scripture. Next Jude reminds us that apostate teachers are not Christians. They are not believers. He has already said this in verses 12-13 when he said they are doubly dead. So, he is reminding us.

These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 19 (NASB)

Cause Divisions

Jude gives us three more descriptions of apostates. The first is that they cause divisions. The Greek word that is translated as “cause divisions” literally means “to make a distinction” or “to mark off.” The idea is that they feel superior and are willing to cause division by creating a confrontation over an issue or teaching. They twist it and emphasize it for personal gain. The result is division.

Worldly-Minded

Next, we are told the apostate is worldly-minded. The Greek word for “worldly-minded” has the idea of being a sensual person. The word is also translated as “natural man” in 1 Corinthians 2:14. That is, they are just a natural man—the Spirit is not teaching them. They are incapable of truly understanding Scripture.

Devoid of the Spirit

The next characteristic helps us understand why they are worldly-minded when we are told that they are devoid of the Spirit. The literal Greek text is that they “not have the Spirit.” They are unbelievers. They are going to hell. They were never spiritually alive. They are deceived by Satan. But they can appear to be real Christians on the outside. John MacArthur states,

They were religious frauds who paid lip service to faith and spiritual life but denied such claims by their actions.[1]

Apostates Are Tares

Several times already we have visited Christ’s teaching about the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The parable helps us understand how a tare can be in a church and be accepted as the pastor, a Bible study teacher or perhaps have some other responsibility. This is an important concept that many Christians fail to properly understand. Therefore, I want to examine this passage closer. The parable begins in Matthew 13:24.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Matthew 13:24-30

Now notice that Jesus says good seed was sown in the field and it produced wheat. Then an enemy sowed seed among the wheat. These seeds were tares—or actually weeds. Then the slaves of the landowner discovered the problem and reported it. The landowner told them to leave the suspected tares alone; otherwise, they might unknowingly uproot the wheat. Then the landowner explained that later at the time of harvest they would burn up the tares, or actually weeds.

The explanation of the parable is given later in verses 36-43 when Jesus’ disciples ask to understand the parable. Verse 37 gives Jesus’ explanation.

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Matthew 13:37-39 (NASB)

Now here is the picture! Wheat symbolizes Christians or believers in Christ. The tares represent unbelievers. The tares look so much like wheat that it is impossible to know which is which—which ones are tares and which are the wheat. This means it is difficult for Christians to know who the apostates or unbelievers in the church are. An apostate can be a ministry leader, a nursery worker, a Bible study leader, a church leader, or the pastor of the church. This passage is not describing only apostate teachers. An apostate is simply someone who has been in the church, knows about Christ and Scripture, and appears to be a Christian but is not real. They appear to be moral, godly people. This is not difficult to understand. You probably know an unbeliever who is more thoughtful, courteous, and polished in their behavior than some Christians, but they are not Christians. Tares are those who have been in the church, heard the gospel, and never became a Christian. This parable explains that the devil has placed them in our churches. The devil has deceived them into thinking they are a Christian.

Apostates are tares. Apostates look like the real thing. The Pharisees were apostate teachers. They are good examples of apostates. They knew Christ existed and knew the Old Testament. The Jews thought the Pharisees were godly men. They deceived everyone!

Tares are not very concerned about sin, except for the consequences of their sins. They want a good marriage, a happy life and a good job. Church has become a social club—a ritual that they enjoy. Some may want to do something in the church because it is a position of honor. They may enjoy teaching just like the public-school teacher who teaches at the local high school or university. The tare may enjoy the church because of the music, the love of the congregation, or the charisma of the pastor. The church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 was an apostate church. If you read closely, you will discover that there were no Christians in that church. Jesus was standing outside, knocking on the church door, wanting inside. The church at Sardis had a reputation that it was alive but was dead. If you read the passage, notice that only a few believers remained in that church. There are churches like that today. They are filled with activity and warmth, but with few believers. In the last fifteen years, atheists now have established churches for themselves. A church building means nothing!

You might be surprised at my next example. There is a conference that is held for pastors every year in California. In the early years, when I used to attend, it was not unusual for men who were already pastors to discover they were not a Christian while attending the conference. It was there that they finally humbly repented of their sins, accepted Christ as their Savior, and submitted to Him as Lord. Before that, being a pastor for them was a job with a salary. It was wonderful news to hear that some pastors became Christians. Yet, the sad thought was what did they teach without the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Example of Apostates—Israelites In The Wilderness

Now let us dig a little deeper. The book of Jude has already given us some examples of apostates from the Old Testament. In verses 5-7 Jude taught that some Israelites, some of the angels, and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and five other cities close by were apostates. It is obvious that the nation of Israel saw God’s miracles and heard Moses’ teachings. They witnessed the ten plagues that were brought upon the Egyptians. They walked across the Red Sea on dry ground, drank water from a rock, ate manna for forty years and saw the fire, smoke and lightening on Mount Sinai when God talked with Moses. Just read Hebrews 12:18-21. It describes what the people experienced when Moses was on Mount Sinai. Yet even though they had experienced all of God’s miracles and heard the Law taught by Moses, those over twenty years of age refused to believe, and, consequently, died in the wilderness. They experienced God and His miracles, but they never believed.

We could imagine they enjoyed going to church to meet with their friends and listen to the great worship band for thirty minutes. But the pastor needs to keep his sermons short! Jude helps us understand that apostate teachers are not just teachers and pastors. Apostates can also sit in the church service but never repent of their sins, believe in Christ, or submit themselves in obedience to Christ. Apostate teachers are simply apostates who want to teach. They may look good, but be careful of their distorted teaching.

Examples of Apostate Teachers—The Priests In Malachi

The book of Malachi gives us another example of apostate teachers or priests. In the first chapter, we quickly learn that the priests of Israel did not love God. They were not committed to the Lord God. In Malachi 1:6, God asked a question,

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised Your name?” Malachi 1:6 (NASB)

Here God warned the priests of Israel that they despised Him. But the priests arrogantly countered with, “Prove it! We are innocent.” The conversation continues like this throughout the book. Malachi 2:1-9 also reveals that the priests selectively ignored parts of Scripture. They were false priests and God rebuked them.

Then in Malachi 3:16, we discover that the priests to whom God was speaking were not believers! Verse 16 refers to a different group—the believing remnant. It says,

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another . . . Malachi 3:16 (NASB)

This means the priests were apostate priests—apostate teachers. Malachi 4:1 announces judgment on them.

Conclusion

Finally, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 warns us that a massive apostasy will only become worse before the antichrist is revealed. This means that our churches will become worse. True worship will become empty worship that pleases the crowd. It will be devoid of the Spirit and truth. It is already happening, and we can see it.

Today, believers often choose a church for that which is not important. Nowhere in Scripture can we find God urging us to choose a church for its size, music, the charisma of the pastor, friends, or for any other reason. But the constant theme of Scripture is that doctrine and the teaching of Scripture must be the motivating reason for selecting a pastor or a Bible teacher. It is the only way to become a father in the faith who knows God.

Sadly, pastors have trained their congregations to accept an anemic pulpit fit only for very new Christians. That was not true decades ago. But today it is. It is rare to find a pastor who seriously teaches through the Bible. Consequently, congregations do not know their Bibles very well. They do not know the theme and message of the books of the Bible because pastors preach topically. Consequently, we have opened the door to false teaching in the church. It has occurred because believers do not know what to look for and do not remember the warning of Christ and the apostles. If we look at Revelation 2:20, we are told that apostasy was already occurring in the early church of Thyatira. The church was tolerating a false prophetess called Jezebel. Don’t miss the word “tolerating.” That means they allowed it to occur.

What is the solution? We have discovered the first part of the answer in this study. Remember that a) apostate teachers are among us, b) apostate teachers are mockers of Scripture and c) false teachers are unbelievers who do not have the Holy Spirit. In our next study, Jude will provide us with more guidance.

I rejoice for this reminder. When I hear someone falsely teaching Scripture, I wonder how could they be so wrong? Jude says, “Remember!” This should help us stay on a straight course.

 

References:

1. John MacArthur. 2 Peter & Jude. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishers. 2005 .p. 199.