Unbelief and Destruction


Having told us his purpose was to urge the saints to persevere and contend for the faith once delivered (Jude 3–4), Jude does not immediately explain how to do this. Instead, he gives us several biblical and traditional examples in order that we, being warned about the fate of false teachers, might strongly resist them.

The first of these examples is found in Jude 5, which reminds us that though Jesus saved a people out of Egypt, He later destroyed those who did not believe. This is a reference to the exodus; thus, we have an explicit reference to the pre-existence of the Christ, for Jude is clearly identifying Jesus with the God who saved Israel from slavery (Ex. 3:6–8).

While Jesus saved the Israelites, most of them were later destroyed (Deut. 1:34–40). How is this possible if all who are truly saved will never finally fall away? While the Bible does use the term “saved” to refer to salvation from the judgment and wrath of God, the term is also used in other ways. The Hebrews were indeed saved or liberated by God from the burden of slavery, but not all of them feared Him. Thus not all of them experienced eternal salvation. Similarly, many non-believers today attend church and are, in a sense, “saved” from societal wickedness by being a part of the visible covenant community. Mere membership, however, does not guarantee salvation, for any professing person who lacks saving faith will also be destroyed. Non-believers may receive temporal benefits, but without faith these will only become cause for stricter judgment (Rev. 3:14–22).

Jude also uses the binding of the angels who rebelled against God as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of what will happen to those who abandon the knowledge of God in favor of unbelief. Aside from warning us of God’s judgment, these verses allude to the sexual immorality, including homosexuality (“unnatural desire,” v. 7), practiced by the false teachers. If we indulge in such things, even if we confess the deity of Christ and other essential doctrines, we likewise reveal ourselves as apostates deserving of judgment.

Coram Deo

In commenting on verse 5, John Calvin tells us that “after having been called by God, we ought not to glory carelessly in his grace, but on the contrary, to walk watchfully in his fear; for if any trifles thus with God, the contempt of his grace will not be unpunished.” We should not fear the possibility of losing salvation, yet we must not think the grace of God is a license to sin, which would reveal us to be apostates lacking true, saving faith.


Originally published in Tabletalk, our daily Bible study magazine.




There's a lighthouse on the hillside

That overlooks life's sea

When I'm tossed, it sends out a light

That I might see


And the light that shines in darkness now

Will safely lead us o'er

If it wasn't for the lighthouse

My ship would be no more


It seems that everyone about us says,

Tear that old lighthouse down

The big ships just don't pass this way anymore

So there's no use in standin' round.


Then my mind goes back to that one dark, stormy night

When just in time I saw the light

Yes, it was the light from that old lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill


And I thank God for the lighthouse

I owe my life to Him

Jesus is the lighthouse

And from the rocks of sin


He has shown a light around me

That I might clearly see

If it wasn't for the lighthouse

Tell me where would this ship be


“To make a difference in the world, you just have to know ... "

Seven Minutes That Moved a Generation

You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by a few great things.

If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on for centuries and into eternity, you don’t have to have a high IQ or a high EQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches. You don’t have to come from a fine family or a fine school. You just have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things, and be set on fire by them.

But I know that not everybody in this crowd wants their life to make a difference. There are hundreds of you — you don’t care whether you make a lasting difference for something great, you just want people to like you. If people would just like you, you’d be satisfied. Or if you could just have a good job with a good wife and a couple good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and quick and easy death and no hell — if you could have that, you’d be satisfied even without God.

That is a tragedy in the making.

Three weeks ago, we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards had both been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon.

The brakes give way, over the cliff they go, and they’re gone — killed instantly.

And I asked my people: was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great vision, spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the glory of Jesus Christ — two decades after almost all their American counterparts have retired to throw their lives away on trifles in Florida or New Mexico. No. That is not a tragedy. That is a glory.

I tell you what a tragedy is. I’ll read to you from Reader’s Digest what a tragedy is. “Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their thirty foot trawler, playing softball and collecting shells.”

That’s a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I get forty minutes to plead with you: don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you: don’t buy that dream. The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account of what you did: “Here it is Lord — my shell collection! And I’ve got a nice swing, and look at my boat!”

Don’t waste your life; don’t waste it.


 is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

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