In every age there have been false teachers and false followers of Jesus Christ that use pretense to find acceptance among Christ followers while at the same time working to pull people away from the fundamental teachings of Scripture. In Jude 8-10 he gives a description of those going in the wrong direction and doing tremendous harm to the body of Christ. “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.”
Notice that Jude describes the ones who are doing harm to the cause of God as “These men”. When he turns his attention to those who are following Christ he will speak of them as “But you beloved.” While he doesn’t call anyone by name, the people who were reading the letter from Jude to begin with would have known immediately who he was talking about. They would have seen the harm being done to the church by these false followers of the Lord. Look at the way he describes “These men.”
They are dreamers. Certainly there isn’t anything wrong with having dreams, whether one is talking about dreams that come in the midst of sleep over which one has no control or the dreams that become our goals, our longings for life. They set for us a target for which we try to reach all our lives. That isn’t the kind of thing Jude is referring to. He is talking about those who are setting aside the clear teachings of the Lord and the apostles in order to follow the dreams they tell the world about. They were looking at those dreams as a revelation from God and were under the impression that they carried more authority than God’s word itself. It is true that God often spoke to His men by means of a dream. He led Peter in a dream to prepare to follow the servants of Cornelius and go preach the gospel to a gentile family. In a dream he led Paul and his company to go to Macedonia with the gospel message. But these dreams didn’t lead people away from God’s clear teachings, or from the faith, but to action in doing what God had already revealed that He wanted to happen.
In Hebrews 1:1-2 it says, “God who at various times and in different ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His son.” When the word of God was once for all time delivered to the saints it meant that the message of God was complete. We now have all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His glory and virtue. When people claim to have received some new revelation from God by means of dreams we should think of these statements from Scripture: “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As I said before, so I now say again, if anyone preaches to you another gospel besides the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9) Tie that passage with 2 John 9 in which John said, “Whoever goes on and does not abide in the teachings of Christ, does not have God. He who abides in the teachings of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”
God isn’t revealing things in dreams that are out of harmony with what He teaches us in His holy and divine word. His mind hasn’t changed on anything and He hasn’t learned anything new since giving His word.
With “These men” their dreams had led to their “Defiling the flesh.” Most likely the primary point being made was that they had defiled the flesh by practices that were immoral. God blessed marriage and declared that marriage is honorable in all times and the marriage bed is undefiled. But the sexually immoral and the adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4) Inside marriage between a man and woman the sexual relations are good, right and holy. Outside that bond sexual relations with the opposite sex, the same sex or with some animal is immoral and defiles the flesh. The dreamers lost sight of moral behavior and thought that they could live by their own lust and still be right with God. They believed that what one did in the body had nothing to do with their soul or relationship with God. They were completely wrong and so is anyone who follows the same line of thinking today.
Another thing the dreamers did was “Reject authority.” Probably the means of doing so was in rejecting the teachings that had come from the apostles and other inspired people who had delivered God’s word to the people. They hated such authority because it left no room for them to push themselves forward as the ones to follow. Jesus turned the normal thinking upside down when he told James and John along with the other apostles that it was true that among the gentiles those who had authority exercised rule over other people. “But it will not be that way among you. He who is greatest among you will be the servant of all. And he who is first among you will be your slave.” (Mark 10:42-44) Later he told the apostles that they were not to call anyone rabbi, master or Lord among them because they only had one Lord and master and that was Jesus. He told them that all of those who followed him were brethren (Matthew 23:8-10). Jesus later said to the apostles before ascending back to the Father, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) When we reject what the apostles or inspired writers of the New Testament say to us then we reject the Lord himself. It isn’t enough to call him “Lord, Lord” we must do the things that he says to be right with him (Matthew 7:21-23)
These men in their dreaming also reviled angelic majesties. Their longing to be in the spotlight not only caused them to speak against the apostles of Christ but even of angelic powers. Jude then tells of an event with Michael the archangel who disputed with the devil about the body of Moses but in that dispute even though he was the archangel of God doing what God told him to do, he didn’t bring railing judgment against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” He refused to bring cutting charges even against the fallen angel, Satan.
This event isn’t recorded in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 34 it tells of the death and burial of Moses, but it says that God buried him. Jude likely is referring to a story that had been passed down from one generation to another among the Jews and with which they would have been very familiar, but one we know nothing about. I would suppose that Satan was saying that since Moses had sinned and wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land that his body should belong to him. But God had forgiven his sin and claimed, not just his soul but his body as well.
In Zechariah 3 there is a similar story told of Satan accusing Joshua the high priest and pointing to his filthy garments. But God gave Joshua clean clothes and a clean turban to wear and gave him a fresh mission as His priest. In that incident the angel of God said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you.”
While God’s angel speaks with care and respect, these men revile the things which they don’t understand, relying on their own instincts like some animal. It is so easy for one to attack everything they don’t understand themselves and even to think that no one can understand a thing since they don’t. They were reviling God and those who spoke His word to hold themselves up for the world to see.
If one is truly a follower of Christ, he won’t speak disparagingly of others, even when he disagrees with them. It shows a lack of character in us when we can’t disagree with someone else without attacking them personally. Like Michael we need to leave the attacks to the Lord Himself.