Jude 5 Israel's apostasy and the sin of unbelief

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Bible Study Series: The Book of Jude - The Acts of the Apostates

Jude 5 Israel's apostasy and the sin of unbelief

by Fraser Gordon

Apostasy means to depart from faith, or move away from boundaries, or things that are already established.  It's a departure from the truth.  Jude gives 3 examples of how God judges apostasy.  The first example is His own people, the nation of Israel, the second are the angels that left their abode and the third is Sodom and Gomorrah, the Gentiles.  Jude draws on these Old Testament examples to establish the truth that God always judges sin.

I want to remind you

I want to start with a quote by William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army at the start of the 19 Century.  

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

There has been such a lot of change in Christendom over the last century.  There are many forms of Christianity, but it often lacks the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many forms of religion, but the Lord Jesus Christ is nowhere to be found.  Much talk about God's love and forgiveness, which is true - but no repentance or admission of sin deserving judgement.  Repentance is not talked about much these days.  True repentance is a turning away from the way we once lived to follow a godly life.  Born again, has become ‘everyone is born again’.  In some countries everyone is a Christian but is there regeneration? Is there new life within? Has the Holy Spirit come to dwell within and bring change? Politics is an absolute mess.  There are many within the body of Christ that teach annihilation instead of the existence of hell. The Bible speaks a lot about heaven, but it also speaks a lot about the judgement to come. William Booth saw the dangers that were coming and Jude warns the believers about the dangers that have arrived within the church.

Jude 1.5a But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, 

No one gets away with sin. God always judges it, and he will always judge apostasy.  First of all, Jude wants to remind his readers.  We always need reminding. Our brains are like sieves. The information comes in, the information goes out.  We forget God's truth.  This is why the nation of Israel had their feasts and days of remembrance, to remember the faithfulness of God.  To remember how God is active on their behalf.  We have the Scriptures and we need to constantly be reminded of God's dealings in the past, the present, and in the future.

The Angel of the Lord

Jude 1.5b that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

God saved Israel out of the land of Egypt but he also judged and destroyed all the apostates who did not believe God about the land of Canaan.  Israel’s journey was the land of Canaan and it would have only been a short 11 day journey had they acted in faith.  But as we'll see it became a 40 year funeral procession.

Exodus 23.20-21 "Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.  21  Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.

God tells Moses that He will send His Angel before him.  This angel is none other than the Angel of the Lord.  The Old Testament reveals the concept of the Trinity;  Jehovah, the Angel of Jehovah, and the Spirit of Jehovah.  When you read of the Angel of the Lord or the Angel of Jehovah, this is not a normal angel.  It is a Christophany - Christ comes as an Angel.  He deals with the nation of Israel before he takes on humanity as the Lord Jesus Christ.  Israel’s encounters with the Angel of the Lord are the Old Testament pictures of Christ.  ‘For my name is in him’ corresponds to John 17.6 when Jesus prays to the father.  "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world”.

Exodus 23.22-23 But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.  23  For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.

God and the Angel of the Lord are the active ones.  God said He would lead them, He was the active one on their behalf who would cut off all the nations before them.  All they had to do was believe and be obedient to God's instructions.

The glory of the Lord

Numbers 14.21-23 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord  22  because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,  23  they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.

God makes a judgement on Israel.  He knows they have seen all the glory and signs that He did in Egypt and the wilderness.  They have tested God over and over and failed.

In Egypt, we are introduced to 10 plagues.  Each of these plagues was a judgement against the gods of Egypt. The Israelites witnessed all the plagues that God placed on the nation of Egypt. They saw God's glory in all of it and they knew that they were a people separated to Him.  The plagues also showed that Yahweh was the true God. The last plague was the Passover lamb, and the killing of the first born. The Israelites were instructed to take a lamb and in Exodus 12 they had to make it “your lamb”.  This is a wonderful passage - the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world - you have to make Him ‘your lamb’.  You have to personalise the Lamb of God and make Him yours.  This is what the Israelites did by shedding the blood of the lamb. Each family took it for themselves. And they applied the blood from their lamb to the doorposts over their house.  And when the Angel came and saw the blood, they were spared but those that did not have the blood had not personalised the lamb so judgement came upon the first born. 

In the wilderness there was also evidence to show God’s love and faithfulness to them.  In Exodus 14 while the Egyptian army was pursuing the Israelites they accused Moses and God of dragging them out of Egypt into the wilderness to be killed.  They wanted to go back to serve the Egyptians!  But God opened the Red Sea and told them to go forward.  They had to move.  They went safely through the Red Sea and the waters covered the Egyptians.  In Exodus 15 as soon as they had come out of the sea they came to the bitter waters of Mara and they complained. God showed them a tree to make the waters sweet.  All these things speak of the cross and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Exodus 16 they complained again, longing for the things of Egypt.  In Exodus 17, they were ready to stone Moses for once again having no water, and they tempted the Lord by saying is He among us or not?  In Exodus 32 the apostasy of the golden calf happens where the people fashioned themselves a god because Moses was delayed.

Numbers 11.4-6 Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: "Who will give us meat to eat?  5  We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;  6  but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"

Now they were complaining about God's provision. The manna God provided was enough for them but they longed for the things of Egypt.  A mixed multitude had come out of Egypt with the Israelites.  People had joined themselves to the nation, believers, and unbelievers also. They longed for the things of the world instead of the goodness which God had given them.  The manna was only given as a temporary provision and was enough for what was supposed to be an 11 day journey from Egypt to Canaan.  Because of unbelief and failure, it took 40 years of wandering around and around, yet God still provided. 

It truly flows with milk and honey

Numbers 13. 17-20 Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, "Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains,  18  and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many;  19  whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds;  20  whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land." Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.

At Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran God instructs Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan. 

Numbers 13.25 says they returned from spying out the land after 40 days.  Forty is always a time of testing and trial in scripture. Forty days of rain, forty years of wandering in the desert and Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness.  

Numbers 13.26-27 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.  27  Then they told him, and said: "We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.

When they came back, their response was in two parts.  The first report that they brought back was that God's word is true. They should have said right then “Let's go, what God said is true and He has given us this land”.  They brought back a massive cluster of grapes which took two men to carry.  A grape that size almost implies abnormal activity.  But they don't go, and the very next word is nevertheless,


Numbers 13.28-29 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.  29  The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan."

Nevertheless, is a but word. Whenever we're confronted with something, the word but or nevertheless comes out.  Israel reveals the real fear that's in their hearts.  They had just said that God’s account of the land was true but when fear and unbelief crawl in it dominates our faith in God.  Nevertheless, despite God's faithful promise, the people who dwell in the land are strong.  Nevertheless, despite God's faithful promise, the cities are fortified. Nevertheless, despite God's faithful promise, we saw the descendants of Anak there.  Unbelief dominated their thinking. God is completely shut out, and they can only see the problems.

Now I understand their fear because the people of Anak were giants which takes us back to Genesis 6.  Satan’s seed, that he produced on earth to corrupt the seed of woman, finds its way into the promised land where God is sending His people.  In Exodus God lists a group of nations that He would drive out of the land.  God said He wanted Israel to totally consume them, to leave none alive.  Within them was the corrupt seed Satan had placed within humanity.  We see it in the land of Canaan with Joshua, and with David and the giants. Israel knew God’s word was true and the land flowed with milk and honey - nevertheless.  The problems dominated instead of faith.

Two voices of faith

Numbers 13.30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it."

Caleb is the first voice of faith.  Don't let fear and unbelief dominate your hearts above God's word and his promise. And the people’s response to Caleb?

Numbers 13.31-33 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we."  32  And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.  33  There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

I don't think they were exaggerating.  Cannibalism was also common amongst giant clans so they may have literally devoured the inhabitants.   This is what the spy’s were afraid of.  I understand when they saw them they were afraid.  Fear on one side and God on the other.  They chose to listen to the fear in their hearts rather than the promises of God.

Numbers 14.1-3 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.  2  And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!  3  Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"

Can you believe their response? God had said I'm giving this land to you. Then all of a sudden, with fear and unbelief they would rather return to slavery under their old Egyptian masters.  They also wanted a new leader, they didn’t like the direction that this leader was taking them.  

Numbers 14.5-8 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  6  But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;  7  and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.  8  If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.'

Then the second voice of faith stands up, Joshua the son of Nun.  He had faith in what God said - a good land that He would bring them into.  Joshua and Caleb agreed with God. 

Numbers 14.9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them."

Rebel is short for rebellion, and it means unbelief.  It’s an apostasy.  It was a rebellion against what God had said. This is what apostasy means.  A departure from faith, and truth.  Joshua was warning them not to rebel against the Lord.  This is faith.  Joshua realises they shouldn't fear the people of the land, even though they were massive and devoured the inhabitants.  The Lord was with Israel and Joshua knew the protection had departed from the land of Canaan.  Remember when we first read that the Angel would go before them and drive them out?  Other scriptures talk about God sending hornets into the land to buffet the people and move them on. 

In the book of Joshua you read of Rahab the prostitute and what she said to the spies.  “We've been afraid of you since you came out of the land of Egypt. We've heard about this God, and we've heard about all the Kings that He has judged on your journey. We've been afraid this whole time of when you would come into the land.”  God was always active in front of them.  It's always His activity.  But the Nation of Israel couldn’t see it and they didn’t believe it.  Their minds were filled with unbelief and fear. But Joshua and Caleb, the only two men out of the whole nation, believed God.  They did not rebel or fear because they knew the Lord was with them.

The judgement

Numbers 14.10-11 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.  11  Then the Lord said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?  

They were going to stone those who had faith and believed in God!  Their response was ‘Let's stone them, and get rid of them.  Hopefully this isn't a picture of what it will be like in the last days with the religious church and the faithful remnant.  God takes the offence to himself personally.  It's not a rejection of Moses or Aaron and their leadership, it's a rejection of God and all His signs, His love, His care, and His provision.  He carried them out on eagle’s wings and provided everything for them, but they don’t want God.  They don’t want what He promised or provided. 

Numbers 14.12-19  I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."  13  And Moses said to the Lord: "Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them,  14  and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.  15  Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying,  16  'Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.'  17  And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying,  18  'The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.' 19  Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."

God was angry and He wanted to wipe them all out and start again. But Moses intercedes for the people and he appeals to God for His love and grace, to forgive the nation.  He also asks ‘What will the Egyptians say?  What will they think when they see how you treat your own people?’  So God refrains from wiping them out but still judges them for apostasy.

Numbers 14.22-24, 30 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,  23  they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.  24  But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 30  Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.

Joshua and Caleb are spared, they will enter the land because of the faith they showed.

The long funeral procession

Numbers 14.31-34 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.  32  But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.  33  And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.  34  According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.

This funeral procession lasted 40 years.  All the males 20 and older who had rejected God and his word, God judged.  They would slowly die off as they wandered round and round the wilderness.  Their children would enter into the land of Canaan with Joshua and Caleb.  All the rest who were saved out of Egypt - the Israelites as well as the mixed multitude among them - they would not go into the land of Canaan.

Numbers 14.35-38 I the Lord have spoken this; I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.' "  36  Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land,  37  those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord.  38  But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

Kadesh was a turning point, God had had enough of the nation’s unbelief.   There was an immediate judgement on the 10 unbelieving spies, who died from a plague.  The rest of the congregation of Israel died in a 40 year funeral procession one after another, going round and round the wilderness.

Today not tomorrow

Hebrews 3.7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,

If you hear his voice today.  It's not tomorrow. It's today.  Even though God judged those that did not believe, you still see the love of God.  He still provided manna and quail for them and their sandals never wore out.  They would not enter God's rest - the land of Canaan, but He continued to provide for His people.  They still saw his works and He was active on their behalf.

Hebrews 3.10-15 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.'  11  So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' "  12  Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;  13  but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  14  For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,  

Going astray is at the heart of fallen mankind, as Jeremiah says the heart is desperately wicked, deceitful, above all things. Our hearts are so corrupted by sin that unbelief dominates and we fail to show true faith in God. Paul is speaking to us. The example is Israel and Paul is asking us to look at what happened to them because of unbelief and fear.  We need to apply this to our own lives and beware.  They didn't believe God, or His word.  Any departure whatsoever from what God has said in his word is apostasy - leaving God and trusting in yourself or being dominated by fear and unbelief. 

The nation of Israel had enough faith to come out of Egypt.  We need to remain steadfast to the end.  We need to have the same faith that brought us out of Egypt to believe that God is able to bring us into the land of Canaan. 

Numbers 3.15-19 while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."  16  For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?  17  Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?  18  And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?  19  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Unbelief stopped them from entering the promised land.  Unbelief is not about understanding or how much we know, it is an unwillingness to trust God.  It's not about how much you know about God, it's about how much you will allow him to live, act and move in your life. Unwillingness is how we refuse to trust God. We refuse to allow Him to do what He said He will do.  For this, the nation of Israel was judged.

The Promised Land  

What does this mean for us? God saved the people out of Egypt, but then he destroyed those who did not believe. Is this about heaven, or about hell?  It's neither.  Coming out of Egypt is a picture of coming out of the world. They were baptised into the Red Sea as they came out.  That speaks of salvation, but their journey was Canaan.  Canaan is not heaven, it is entering into all the promises that God has for you and I.  Entering into His rest - rest from self.  Christ in you living the Christian life through you.  Christ in you is your only hope of glory.  He's the only one that can live the Christian life.  That is the rest of God.  There were battles to be fought in the land of Canaan.  All battles will cease in heaven.  In Canaan God was active and showed himself strong. This is what Canaan is - entering into all the fullness that God has for you in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Israelites came up short.  Unbelief and fear dominated their lives, and they never came into all that God promised. They wandered round and round.  A picture of a Christian who has been saved but is dominated by fear, unbelief and living by the flesh.  Round and round with the same problems always hankering back for the things of the world.  Never fully trusting God and never enjoying the goodness that God has given to us - Christ living His life in and through us.

The Israelites did not end up in hell. They were judged because of their unbelief and apostasy, and failure to trust God.  It meant their existence was a wilderness life.  Yes, they were saved out of Egypt but they lived 40 years wandering in unbelief and never entered into all that God had for them. There are many Christians who live like that. They had enough faith to get out. But they don't have enough faith to get in.  The reality is that the same faith in God to get out of Egypt, the same faith that you placed in the Lord Jesus Christ when you committed your life to him is exactly the same faith that's required to enter into God's rest.  A rest from self. 


Jesus Christ paved the way. He died on the cross for our sins, crying out 'Tetelestai' - 'it is finished'.   It was His work on our behalf.  The same faith when you said, Lord, I believe that You died for me, I believe that You covered all my sin and I take You this day.  Forgive me of my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.  The same faith that grabs hold of the Lord Jesus Christ is the same faith applied toward God and His promises for this and every day.  Lord Jesus, you are alive in my life. Have Your will and Your way in my life.  I yield my life to You, and I ask You to live Your life in me.  The same faith to get out is the same faith needed to enter into God's rest - a rest from self, of trying to please God.  Live for God allowing him to have His way.   

This is one example of how God judged his own apostate people.  We don't get away with sin, God will judge it.  This is the first example Jude gives after talking about certain men who have crept in. They are wrecking our churches, and wrecking God's word.  God didn't let His own people get away with it, and he won't let anyone else get away with it either. 

Today if you hear his voice don't harden your heart but believe that God’s word is true and believe that He can take you in as He promised, just as Joshua and Caleb did.  We can too.  Don't depart from the living God. Don't believe apostasy, believe in God.  He is able to bring you to a place of rest. Those who believe enter that rest.  The trouble with the nation of Israel is they didn’t apply faith.  This is what unbelief will do to us saints, it will wreck our lives if we fail to trust God and believe. 

God bless.