Fake News Pundits, Your Fate Is Sealed
The Fake News! troublemakers are in for more trouble.
- First, they have been condemned for their denial of Jesus and the practice of some of the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5. Usually, when we hear the word immoral, we have been trained to think of sexual sin. But Paul expands far beyond that classification in Galatians 5.
- Second, they have been convicted by their comparison to three groups of sinners from the First Testament, who have been shown to be rebellious against authority.
- Finally, Jude has judged them for teaching others to sin with the illustration of three notorious individual sinners from the First Testament. Each of these three groups, one may recall, ended with a story of judgment.
Now Jude identifies these agitators with six metaphors. Remember, a metaphor is a comparison of two things. Barclay says,
This is one of the great passages of invective of the New Testament. It is blazing moral indignation at its hottest. As Moffatt puts it: “Sky, land and sea are ransacked for illustrations of the character of these men.” Here is a series of vivid pictures, every one with significance.”[ref]William Barclay. Jude. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/jude-1.html/ (accessed 5.14.18).[/ref]
Six Vivid Metaphors 12-13
Metaphor #1: 12a
These men are blemishes. There have been many tries by scholars to render this word by words like filth spots (Richard C. H. Lenski). Homer in writing the Odyssey gives it a clear meaning when he records “Here this part of the fleet was driven on the rocks and wrecked.” The word blemishes should be translated rocks and can be understood to be like a reef. When navigating a ship, one can only see part of a reef, sometimes none of it. When the ship’s bottom hits it, disaster strikes—and the ship often sinks. In the case of the Titanic, the ship sank. In the case of the Exxon Valdis, its spill damaged and killed.
These folks are dangerous because undiscerning Jesus followers get too close to them, thinking they are rocks as in solid folks and pillars of the community of faith as in those who hold up the edifice, rather that they are really dangerous reefs to sink the ship of Zion.
Jude is trying to paint a picture for his readers. These Fake News! teachers are like reefs. One can only see a part of what they are all about—in some cases nothing can be seen. At a most unexpected moment when all looks well, one’s ship (a metaphor for Jesus followers as a group and a Jesus follower as an individual) will hit a snag and calamity will follow: spiritually is shipwrecked!
These rabble-rousers were at your love feasts. The early Jesus followers came together to fellowship around meals. What has now come to be called the Lord’s Supper was celebrated either before or after each of these meals eaten together in fellowship. The concept was mutual Christian fellowship and warmth. These meetings were not without corruption. Paul had to speak to the Corinthian church about their abuses (1 Corinthians 11). In Corinth, they would come together and separate according to wealth (identity “politics” in the early ecclesia) and then fellowship, without realizing that all are one in Christ—rich and poor. Yes, ChurchWorld is guilty of identity fellowship. This should be a constant reminder to a community of faith today not to segregate the people of God. We have a long way to go. Martin Luther King once said: “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Nothing much has changed.
Jude’s intent is for his readers to understand the peril of having these folks in such close proximity. To continually fellowship with them is to become enamored with their teaching and find out too late that one’s ship has been wrecked.
Metaphor #2 12b
These rebels were eating with you without the slightest qualm. The Fake News! teachers were violating the hospitality of the believers by showing up at their meals of fellowship. They were participating therein without any fear of being exposed. They exerted their power and presence believing that they were right in what they were doing and that no one would confront them.
The danger of the Fake News! teachers participating in the communal meals of the ecclesia would be especially pernicious, for these meals in the early gatherings of Jesus followers involved breaking of bread (i.e., a common meal), worship, and instruction.
They were shepherds who feed only themselves. The irony of their participation was that while they were supposed to be fellowshipping with the saints, but they were only feeding themselves. A closed society of sorts. Today’s church is full of little clusters, which allow no one to penetrate, usually in a small group setting. Or, in echo chambers where there is only one point of view among the attendees, which are discussed ad nauseam to some of the participants. We should be careful of shepherding only our small group and ourselves. These Fake News! teachers were only interested in their own little group and making sure that it was fed, in this case primarily with food, but most likely with their Fake News! of the day as an appetizer or a dessert. It is incredible how we often live with such naiveté!
Metaphor #3 12c
They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind. When one looks up and watch dark clouds forming, the natural expectation from a cloud is rain. These Fake News! teachers looked like rain clouds but they were waterless. Their opinions actually had no real value. Their verbal vomit had nothing to offer believers but death and mayhem. Because they are empty clouds, they seem to drift along as the wind blows them. Here today, gone tomorrow! Because they are destitute of spiritual life, they have nothing to offer anyone.
Without rain translates a Greek word that Luke uses in 11.24 of his book. There, the NIV translates it, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.” Arid places are the places where evil spirits go to find rest of which there is none. It is not farfetched to believe that there may be some connection between what Jesus said in Luke and what Jude is saying here. Paul has a similar thought which is recorded in 1 Timothy 4.1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” It is interesting to think that the things that were being taught by these Fake News! teachers were, in fact, being taught by the inspiration of demons. The Western mind struggles with this concept because its worldview prohibits such belief. When was the last time you heard the American news media and your first thought, or maybe any thought, was that they are being “influenced by the demonic!”
The second thing that can be deduced from this passage is the instability of these Fake News! teachers. They were not grounded and settled. They had no true and firm foundation. They were carried along by every verbal impulse which confronted them.
Metaphor #4 12d
Autumn trees without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. So that there is no doubt in any reader’s mind about what Jude thinks about these Fake News! reporters, he states the following four things.
- They are like autumn trees: This is a picture of trees at the end of autumn where dry leaves clutter the ground and trees look lifeless and barren. The beginning of the cycle holds beauty as the leaves turn different colors. Could Jude have had this in mind? They looked good, but they had nothing to offer. When all the trees are bare, one looks at them and wonders why they are there. The work to pick up the clutter is horrendous. In short, they are good for nothing. This is precisely Jude’s point!
- They are without fruit. As believers, we are told to produce the fruit of the Spirit. To be fruitless is not to be a believer. What these teachers taught would only produce the same thing they possess, i.e., no fruit. We have been called to a life of producing fruit not a life of fruitlessness. We need to be watchful so that we are not deceived.
- These teachers are uprooted. This should leave no doubt in the minds of Jesus followers. They have ceased to produce fruit so they are pulled up by the roots. They are completely dead, not merely barren for the moment. By their actions and attitudes, they have been severed from life.
- They are twice dead. They were dead first by not bearing fruit. They are dead twice by being pulled up by the roots, with no further possibility of life. Jude leaves no doubt that to follow these teachers and their practices is to find oneself in the same condition.
To some degree, every believer is a fruit inspector. Jesus tells us that we will know people by the fruit they bear (Matt. 7.20).
Metaphor #5 13a
They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame. There are two expressions in this sentence. First, they are wild waves of the sea. One could translate it “wild waves of the sea.” The emphasis is on the fierceness of the waves. To get a picture of this uninterrupted motion of a sea, one should read the story in Mark 4 where Jesus goes to sleep and his disciples wake him for fear of dying. Mark’s text tells us that the waves were beating into the boat, one after the other—relentlessly. This same idea is the picture that Jude gives of these men. They are relentless in their search for saints whom they can destroy. Second, the reader is told that these men were “foaming up their own shame.” If you have ever been to the ocean and seen the debris that is left when the tide goes out, you have a picture of what Jude is trying to communicate. These men pour out their religious harlotry like waves that hit on the shores of believers. The acts of sin are shameful. One might understand by this that when a believer decides to follow one of these teachers, he or she will be the debris that is left on the shore of sinfulness.
Metaphor #6 13b
Finally, they are wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. This metaphor portrays the picture of a shooting star, which has no fixed place in the heavens any longer. While it produces a lot of visual pleasure, it is actually burning out on its track to nothingness; it will finally fizzle out and there will be no trace of it. Classical Greek uses the word that NIV translates wandering to mean roaming in error. The irony in Jude is delightful. These men must have professed to be the light to follow. Jude agreed that they are lights, but the kind of light that will soon disappear into the blackest darkness. They flash for a moment, a flash in the pan!
We must note again that the conclusion of this section is similar of the group of sinners (5-7) and the individual sinners (11). This section ends with a note of judgment. With all their belief that they were the light, they will be put into utter darkness forever. While those who follow the real light will have eternal bliss and blessedness, these folks will have eternal doom, despair, and darkness. These Fake News! purveyors have sealed their doom and the doom of all who follow them.