Unbelief and Destruction

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5).

- Jude 5–7

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.

Passages for Further Study

Num. 14:1–38
Ezek. 16
Heb. 3:7–4:13
2 Peter 2:4–10a

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