Reserved Unto Eternal Fire
October 25, 2015 / No. 3799
Dear Radio Friends,
In the next several broadcasts we will hear what God says concerning the wicked men who had crept into the church in Jude’s day. The Scriptures we consider are not going to be couched in quaint platitudes unable to stir the souls of men. God’s judgment on ungodly men, men void of the fear of God yet who claim be Christian, is harsh. And the word God speaks to the saints about such men is not pretty. But we must remember as we consider these verses that God uses Jude to express His condemnation upon ungodly men. This is not my word, neither even Jude’s word. God speaks. Here Jude writes in verses 5-7, the verses we consider today: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude in these three verses further develops his argument to contend for the faith. The ungodly men who had crept into the church were ordained by God to condemnation! Their end is judgment, and their judgment is eternal fire. To reinforce this point Jude uses three illustrations from the Old Testament Scriptures.
RESERVED UNTO ETERNAL FIRE
I. The Examples
We will find throughout this letter of Jude that he is fond of grouping together three examples to make one point. He does that in the verses we study today. Jude refers to three different incidents involving three different types of people or beings. Jude does this in order to reveal three different transgressions, all of which are interrelated and result in the punishment of eternal fire. Let us take a close look at the three examples Jude relates, first of all.
The first example is that of the nation of Israel in the wilderness. We read in verse 5, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” This verse makes reference first of all to the deliverance of the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt. For 400 years God’s people served Pharaoh and the Egyptians under cruel, hard slavery. Pharaoh was determined to destroy Israel. Anyone with a simple knowledge of the Bible knows of the great salvation God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses. God sent 10 plagues that utterly decimated the land of Egypt, leaving very little the Egyptians could call their own. At the end of it all God led His people through the Red Sea on dry ground and drowned Pharaoh and his army in the sea. But Jude says: “afterward God destroyed them that believed not.” The children of Israel spent two years in the Sinai Peninsula, during which time God organized her into a powerful nation under law and giving her the tabernacle. But when God led this nation to the brink of the promised land, the land of Canaan, the people rebelled against God and Moses. For this reason God sent the nation back into the wilderness to wander about for another 38 years. During this time, we read, the bodies of many fell by the wayside where they were buried on account of their unbelief. Such was the judgment of God upon this people. Such was the punishment upon those who were members of the church outwardly, but in their hearts were ungodly. The writer to the Hebrews describes that in Hebrews 3:17, 18: “But with whom was God grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom swear he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” This is the first example Jude uses to point out God’s judgment on those in the church who walk in sin and unbelief against Him.
The second example is recorded in verse 6: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” God created the angels good—perfect servants to do His will. Their first estate and their habitation make reference to their place in heaven with God and the function they served there. The angels were created to be ministers to the elect people of God as they are born and live in this world. They care for and defend God’s people. They were created to announce and assist in ushering in the special events surrounding our salvation. They were created to sing praises unto God and the Lamb round about the throne of God. This was their first estate. This was their original calling. It was the place God gave to them in heaven with Him. But they fell from this first estate. Not all of them, of course. If we can take somewhat literally the account in Revelation 12 approximately 1/3 of the angels fell from their high estate of glory. Nothing is told us about what took place in this rebellion of the angels in heaven. But soon after they were created, Satan led an assault on God in an attempt to usurp God’s rule to himself. In this, of course, he failed, since Satan is but a creature and God alone is the all-powerful Creator.
The point of Jude in citing this example is to reveal the severe punishment of God upon the devils who have fallen from their first estate. God has reserved them in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. They are reserved by God in the chains of darkness. In other words, there is no possibility of their salvation. Their condemnation is absolute. They are chained by God in the darkness of unbelief and evil with no escape, no salvation. They cannot and will not repent of the evil that is in them. This is God’s judgment upon them. And they are reserved by God unto the great day of judgment, at which time all men and angels shall be judged and receive their eternal reward. God is not mocked. God is a God of judgment and justice. He will punish those who sin against Him with no mercy! And His judgment will be harsh but according to strictest justice.
The third example Jude mentions is found in verse 7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Sodom and Gomorrah were two cities among five located in the rich, fertile valley of Jordan. This valley was well watered, like the Garden of Jehovah—virtual paradise. Lot had settled there when separating from Abraham. Jude does not enter into the whole account of Lot himself, but in the Genesis account God sent two angels to Lot to lead him out of the city and the plain of Jordan. When these two men arrived, the men of Sodom wanted to “sodomize” them, that is, have forced homosexual relations with them. The angels struck these men blind before urging Lot and his family to leave these cities and the plain of which they were a part. The reason these angels came to take Lot away was the impending doom of these cities by God. You see, the people of this rich fertile valley dwelling in the prosperity of the land had defiled themselves with the sin of fornication. The term fornication makes reference to every sin of a sexual nature. Whereas adultery refers to unfaithfulness in the marriage bond, fornication refers to unlawful sex outside of the marriage bond in whatever form that sexual relationship takes place. These cities were given over to lasciviousness, just like the men in the churches of Jude’s day. These cities, however, never had the light of salvation shine upon them. They did not know God but worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. God had given them over therefore into the sin of fornication, increasing His judgment upon them.
So far had these cities fallen into the sin of lasciviousness that they went after strange flesh. This makes clear reference to the sin of homosexuality, for which these cities were known. Instead of merely falling headlong into the sin of fornication, lusting after the flesh of the opposite sex, these men and women carried this sin to its logical end and lusted after the flesh of the same gender. And for this sin God now punished these cities with a horrible punishment: He rained down upon this plain and its five cities fire and brimstone. He burned the plain until there was nothing but ash and cold molten rock to this day. Even today this plain is empty of any life and stinks of the smell of sulfur and salt—utterly devastated. If there is anything that in an earthly way exemplifies the fire of hell, it is this destruction of these cities.
II. The Idea
Now, the question is: what is Jude’s purpose in citing these three examples? What is the idea behind these three incidents or events? The answer can be found in part in this: Jude wants God’s people to see and understand that these ungodly men that had crept into the church at that time were not an exceptional occurrence. The ungodly men in the church who had turned grace into lasciviousness belonged to a whole company of transgressors. God has ordained from eternity those who would perish in their sin. And these men in the church were but a part of that company of people or beings that transgressed God’s law. Neither do the sins of such men occur in a vacuum that never has repercussions on the church or God’s people. These ungodly men were a part of the whole who walked in sins—but sins that always threaten the life of holiness of God’s people. This is why God’s saints must take the warning of God’s Word here seriously! These sins of these ungodly men threaten the church and the holiness of the church and God’s people. They always do! And they threaten God’s people in these three ways exemplified here. The sin of the nation of Israel is brought to the foreground because it takes place right within the heart of the church. Unbelief! Unbelief can be found in the church institute! There are always those who join the church, or who are born and raised in the church, but in whom Christ has not worked by His grace and Spirit. They are members of the church. They go through the motions as everyone else. They can even speak piously. But they are unbelievers! They are not cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ. Their lives are not that of holiness. Instead, they are given over to the sins of this world. Such ungodly men in the church are a threat to God’s people because it is so tempting to follow them in their sin.
The transgression of the angels that fell into sin is mentioned because it reveals to us that even the angels that dwell before the face of God in heaven are not exempt from sin. And the particular sin of which they are guilty is that of rebellion. The angels rebelled against their Maker in an attempt to rule themselves. Sin is rebellion against God. It is not merely unbelief but horrible rebellion and disobedience against God. Neither is man left unaffected by these ungodly beings. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to rebel against God. Those fallen angels are still abroad and working to tempt God’s saints to rebel against God’s commandments. These same devils work in the church today too to destroy her and God’s saints—to turn us away from the faith and into sin. So, this example comes as a warning: earnestly contend for the faith! Do not let anyone take it away. Do not give in to the temptation of the devil or the unbelief found in the church. So, the fallen angels point us to the sin of rebellion.
The horrendous sins of Sodom and Gomorrah point out that all transgression against God is also defiance. Concerning these men Paul writes in Romans 1:28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Or verse 32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” The men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah were heathen people. But they still knew there was a God who must be feared. Within them the works of the law of God were written. They knew the judgment of God upon those who walk in fornication and homosexuality, but despite that knowledge they defiantly continued to walk in such sin. Such were the ungodly men who had crept into the church at the time of Jude: they were guilty of unbelief, rebellion, and open defiance against God and His commandments. Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain of Jordan comprised the wicked world at its worst. That wicked world can have its sinful influence on the members of the church too. Again, we do not live in isolation from the world. The world that lives openly and defiantly in its sin of lasciviousness certainly presses in upon the believer, bombarding him with its sin of lust. Earnestly contend for the faith, people of God!
Jude presents us with one more truth in these examples: the just judgment of God upon sin. Those characterized by unbelief died in the wilderness and were buried along the way. They never made it to the promised land. They perished in the wilderness. Those in the church who walk in unbelief will never make it to the promised land, people of God! They will perish in their sin! They will die in their sin and will afterward receive their just reward. The angels that fell from their first estate are reserved by God in chains under darkness. Yes, God preserves His people in the salvation He purchases for them, but do we ever consider the opposite? Ungodly men who are ordained by God unto this condemnation are also reserved by God unto that condemnation. And though it is true that God may, by His grace, so choose to save some of these wicked men, nevertheless God knows His own. And He writes the names of those reserved under darkness in His book of death—these will never be brought to faith and repentance.
Those who perished in Sodom and Gomorrah had but a taste in their death of the eternal fire of God’s wrath that is now leveled against them in hell. Their punishment is set for an example, of what hell will be like. It will be a fire that burns without ending—a consuming of the soul eternally in utter pain and agony while experiencing the hot wrath of God against sin. None of this is a pretty picture. And surely the mere threat of such a horrible punishment is not going to scare anyone into heaven. But those who walk in faith need to know the end of the ungodly. Walking in their sin is not so pretty, is it? Ah, dear listeners, everyone must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord. Ungodly men who creep into the church unawares to spread the sin of lasciviousness are reserved for that great day of the Lord when Christ returns in judgment. Who will stand in that dread day! They will not escape it. Their sin is unbelief, rebellion, and defiance against God. Surely, the judgment of the ungodly is no pretty thing!
III. The Assurance
May God so work in our hearts that we may see that. Unbelief. Rebellion. Defiance. How horrible are these sins! If we walk in them we perish. God commands us to turn from and confess our sin. Then embrace the cross of Christ where alone is found plenteous forgiveness. He will in no wise cast out those who seek Him with heart sincere.
For those who are faithful, take heed to yourselves. No one is above falling into such sins. And they are so, so attractive to the flesh. He who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We must contend for, strive, wrestle with our own flesh and walk in the faith once delivered unto our fathers. All the while we look to Jesus Christ who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. We are sanctified and preserved in Him alone. May God in His grace preserve His people from falling. And when we stumble may He lift us up and keep us faithful unto Him. Contend for the faith, people of God!