Have you ever bought into some plan or product that was described with amazing terms to the degree you thought that if you bought into this plan it would change your whole life for good? How many times has the results of such promises been as abundant as the promises? Probably very few if any times. Whether it is financial or spiritual it is pretty common for people to make huge promises and have very small results. I think of all the different products that are advertised that will supposedly lead a person to lose weight. People buy into the programs that are offered believing that if they just drink this product or take this pill that weight will begin to fall away immediately, only to learn that they took the product and gained more weight in the process.
Jude describes the false teachers who had invaded the church he loved as being among those who make big promises and give meager results. “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
Think of the different ways he tried to picture these men to show the church they were full of wind but carried no weight. One of the dangers in every age for those sailing in the sea is that they may hit a hidden reef. From above the surface every thing looks calm and safe. But underneath where the body of the boat is running there lies the reefs that a sharp, jagged and dangerous. Many a ship filled with unsuspecting sailors has run into the hidden reefs to the destruction of the ship and the loss of many lives. Jude uses two metaphors in this description. They are hidden reefs in your love feasts. The first century church gathered on Sundays not only to worship God and commune with him but to share a meal of fellowship and love with each other. When Paul wrote I Corinthians 11 the church in Corinth had problems with the Love feast. They were coming together, not for the good of the church but for its harm. People were being mistreated. Some were eating and drinking too much and others leaving hungry. Jude said they were turning these feast of fellowship into a place for division, factions and hurting the church. These false teachers feast with you without fear for God or respect for one another. Instead of caring for or shepherding the people they only shepherd themselves.
He said they were clouds without water, carried along by the winds. Just a couple of nights ago the clouds were dark and ominous in their appearance as the wind blew them along. It looked as though we would have a torrent of rain, but no rain fell. It was just wind and dark clouds but nothing in them. Spiritually there are teachers that are presenting themselves with flare, but when you listen closely to what is said it is just wind and noise but nothing to change anyone’s life for the better.
Jude then describes them as “Autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted.” Do you remember Jesus’ attitude toward the fig tree that had leaves and looked like it had fruit, but when he came to it, it had nothing but leaves. He placed a curse on the tree saying it would never produce fruit again, that no one would ever eat from it again. When He and the disciples saw it the next day it was completely withered. When we look like we have something to offer but produce nothing of value we are in trouble with the Lord.
He said they were “Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam.” Stand on the sea shore after the tide has gone out. It will be covered with trash left behind as the waves have splashed onto the shore then retreated. When the waves are splashing on shore they seem powerful and clear. But look at what is left behind when they leave. So it is with the false teacher. When they come into a church it seems as though they have much to offer and that they do a lot of good. But when they move away there is only pain and filth that is left behind.
His final description is that they are like “Wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” When one stands outside on a dark night they may see a star flashing across the night sky. It seems that they shine brightly but then burn out. It seems the darkness takes them over and destroy’s them forever. These false teachers in a church have the same effect. They shine among the people. They are the flash that causes people to think we really have something special to have these people among us. But they are gone as quickly as they showed up and nothing can be found from their work
In every description Jude has pictured the false teacher as the one with great promise but pitiful results. In lots of years of working with churches, I’ve seen many, many times when someone shows up that seems to be the savior but trouble seems to follow them and before long the church that was so excited is discouraged. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus who promises and delivers. He is with us all the time, during good and bad.