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Up until this point, Jude’s book has been shedding light on how false prophets have infiltrated the church. But in verse 11, he lists three evil men from the Old Testament and compares them to these teachers. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. Each one of these men was an enemy of God; and we can divide preachers of false doctrine into three distinct spirits based on what Jude has listed.
These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; (verse 12). The epistle of Jude is more than just an ancient letter from a bygone era; these principles are universal for every church and are still relevant today. People who speak false doctrine in our midst are spots of mold on the bread of life we’re trying to serve to the world. They bear rotten fruit, just like the fig tree that Jesus cursed. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away (Matthew 21:19).
The spirit of Cain is the spirit of envy. Envy is perhaps the most destructive force on planet earth, and God despises it. Genesis 4:3-5: And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. Abel sacrificed a sheep, and God honored him. Cain did not raise livestock, so he brought fruits and vegetables before the Lord. But blood has to be spilled to atone for sins, so God could not recognize his sacrifice. No doubt Cain brought the best he had to give, but “our best” isn’t good enough. Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, (1 Samuel 15:22).
The Lord knew where this wickedness would lead and even warned Cain. Genesis 4:3-4: And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. But Cain did not heed His warning. Verse 8: And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
The spirit of envy, the same hideous demon that bound Cain, is the first thing that possesses false prophets. They teach lies that contradict the Word of God and spew opinions rather than facts. They refuse to talk about Hell or God’s judgment. They are not bringing what God asked them to bring, so he does not bless them. But when preachers and teachers speak Bible truth, God allows them to shine. Jealousy will consume those who preach false doctrine, and just like Cain, they will conspire to destroy their brothers and sisters in Christ.
The devil loves envy, because it’s his most powerful tool against God’s children. Those who allow it to destroy others through them will suffer the same fate as Cain. And he (God) said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; (Genesis 4:10-11). False prophets will be cast out of God’s presence into darkness and their names will be forgotten.
The spirit of Balaam is the spirit of greed. This was a prophet whose loyalty could be bought with a price. As the children of Israel began to approach the land of Canaan to conquer it, King Balak of Moab became very afraid. Numbers 22:3: And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. Balak sent for a prophet and offered him great wealth if he could put a curse on God’s people. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor…saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: (verses 5-6).
At first Balaam refused, knowing no curse could be put on God’s anointed. Verse 13: And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you. But the wicked king persisted. And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people (verses 15-17). Finally Balaam relented, saddling a donkey to go visit the wicked king. But God stopped him dead in his tracks. Verse 23: And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
Fearful of the angel of the Lord, the donkey turned away several times, even crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. Balaam beat her, until the angel made her speak, opening the prophet’s eyes to what stood before him. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times (verse 28)? Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face (verse 31).
Humbled by this experience, Balaam still went before Balak, but with a different message. Verse 38: And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. The Lord was orchestrating this entire chain of events to demonstrate to Moab that He alone is God.
Balak took Balaam before the high places of Baal so all the Moabites could hear him curse the Jews. But God put the words in Balaam’s mouth, and what proceeded was something entirely different. Numbers 23:7-8: And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied? Balak was enraged, but tried again in a different location, taking Balaam to the top of Pisgah in the field of Zophim. And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah… And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the Lord yonder (verses 14-15). But once again, the message from God wasn’t what the king wanted. Verse 20: Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
Undaunted, Balak tried one more time. And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence. And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward jeshimon (verses 27-28). But this time, the message was even more powerful, praising God for all that He’d done for the Israelites. Numbers 24:4-5: He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!
Verse 10: And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. Balaam was unable to bring a curse against God’s people. But then, mysteriously, we find in Numbers 25 the people worshiping Moabite gods, and the Lord brings judgment through plagues onto them. And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel (Numbers 25:1-3). And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand (verse 9).
What happened? We learn later that after the three attempts, Balaam came up with a way to curse the children of Israel and receive his reward from Balak. Revelation 2:14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Balaam’s greed got the better of him, and he told Balak that while they could not curse the Israelites directly, they could bring God’s wrath by influencing them to disobey Him. And so they infiltrated the camp with idol gods and unholy Moabite women, causing Israel to sin and judgment to fall.
There are Balaams among us today. Greed is their great motivator. They will tell Christians anything they want to hear, as long as it will sell plenty of books. They put their big grinning faces on lines of CDs and magazines, making great fortunes, but only preach a “feel-good” religion, watering down the true gospel of Jesus Christ. They tell their congregations they can live any way they want and still make it to Heaven. Just like the wicked prophet, they are selling out God’s children for great fortunes. God is bringing judgment down on the Christian church today because of their treasonous lies. But any prophet who refuses to speak the truth will have much to account for on the Day of Judgment. Ezekiel 3:18: When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
The third and final spirit of false doctrine is the spirit of Korah. If Cain represented envy and Balaam greed, Korah symbolizes rebellion. Korah was a Levite, a member of the same tribe as Moses and Aaron. We find in Numbers 16 that he gathered 250 other men to question their authority: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord (verse 3)?
First Korah accused Moses of taking too much upon himself, and then he claimed he was acting high and holy over everyone else. But he really just wanted all the power for himself. Moses devised a test that would allow God to decide who the true leader should be. Verse 7: And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi. They were to bring incense before the Lord, and God would choose whose fire to honor. Moses was wise in not taking the matter into his own hands, but simply giving it over for God to decide.
The next morning, the test began before the tabernacle. And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron (verse 18). The glory of the Lord came down, and it didn’t take long for God to settle things: And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (verses 23-24). The Lord sent an ominous warning for his people to separate quickly from the presence of the rebels, because judgment was about to fall.
And fall it did. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation (verses 32-33). As the earth opened up to swallow Korah and his followers, their screams were so horrifying that everyone within the vicinity fled for their lives. Verse 34: And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.
One would think this terrifying display of God’s power would have kept anyone from speaking out again, but the next day, people were beginning to mourn for Korah. Verse 41: But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord. Even after he had died, Korah’s spirit of rebellion was still wreaking havoc on the Israelites. But God stopped it right there, sending a plague to kill all those who had sided with the wicked. Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah (verse 49).
1 Samuel 15:23: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. False prophets bring the spirit of rebellion into the church, and it brings as much death and destruction as Korah did to the children of Israel. When church leaders speak the truth, those who believe false doctrine will became angry and rebel. Some of them may rise up against the pastor. Others may simply walk out when the true Word is spoken. But they are casting themselves out of the presence of the Lord.
Jude 13 makes clear what will happen to all those who dare pollute the Lord’s house with teachings that contradict the Word of God: Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. They are like shooting stars: bright for one moment but then vanishing in the blackness of the night sky forever. They may get noticed for a brief period of time, but God will see that they are cast out of His house to spend eternity in darkness.