Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Jude isn’t messing around in this letter; he gets right into his indictment of false teachers and frauds. In this paragraph, he cites three Old Testament examples to make the point that his recipients had best not listen to these people. There is an underlying premise in all of this that isn’t entirely expressed, at least not for a modern audience. The only “new truth” comes from false teachers. Their new morality is little more than an old immorality (cf. Galatians 1:9; 1 John 2:19-28). If you are like most modern people, your defenses are up and there are warning lights going off in your head, but hang with me for a moment.
Jude mentioned in verses 3-4 that there are people in his readers’ midst who are trying to pervert the gospel message they have been entrusted with, just as John told his readers that they should hold to the gospel teachings they heard in the beginning− Paul also gave to his readers similar warnings. So, if someone comes up with a different gospel, it can’t be right, for the gospel is “once for all”. Leaving the gospel behind, along with the teachings of Christ will have certain consequences; Jude begins to make his case here with three examples from the past:
The first example comes from the story of the Exodus. God saved the people from Egypt and delivered the promised land to them, but they were too afraid to enter it. Only Joshua and Caleb entered the land ultimately, for God led the people through the Wilderness for the next 40 years in punishment for their disobedience. You might recall that this same example was used in Hebrews 3 and 4 to make the same point.
The next example is that of angels who rebelled against God. They fell from their high position and await their doom.
Finally, he uses the example of Sodom and Gomorrah where the people turned their backs on God’s ways and fell into immorality, the result apparently of a “new truth” discovery. They lost their relationship with God and were consumed by His judgment.
I would like to call to your attention something that might not have occurred to some: In each of these three cases, those involved turned their backs on a relationship with God that they had. The Israelites refused to accept the promised land, a covenant promise God made to Abraham and his descendants who turned their backs on the covenant when they refused to enter. The angels mentioned had a high place in heaven, but they turned their backs on this relationship when they decided they would take God’s place. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had favor with God until they turned their backs on Him and decided that they would decide what is right and what is wrong.
Do you remember how verse 4 ends? Here’s the whole verse, pay special attention to the end:
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord
Jude’s point is that these teachers with their “new truth” are trying to make the people deny Jesus Christ by their actions which would amount to a repudiation of their covenant relationship. In Scripture, this is always a very big deal: In life, it is the way to destruction.