Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 14:28-31; Jude 11-24; Job 27; Daniel 4
Jude brings up what today has become a very unpopular idea. While surveys find that many people believe in God and some form of heaven, very few believe in hell. Jude, in keeping with the rest of the Bible, especially the New Testament, presents a very different position.
Jude pronounces judgment on certain godless men because they have followed in the footsteps of Cain, Balaam and Korah. Precisely what Jude is focusing on in the three biblical characters is not given. Jude metaphorically elaborates on how the false teachers do exactly the opposite of what they should. They are shepherds who only take care of themselves; they are clouds who provide no rain; they are autumn trees who provide no fruit; they are stars who instead of guiding travellers themselves wander through the skies. They are grumblers and faultfinders, selfish and boastful. Ultimately, they are those who do not trust in the love and mercy of God: the ungodly.
Jude does not limit the consequences of ungodliness to lost opportunities or a failure to reach their potential on Earth. They not only miss out on the blessings of the Lord, they will be judged and punished. Blackest darkness waits for them, which they will experience forever. In verse 7 he had mentioned the punishment of eternal fire. Although Jude does not use the word, he raises the spectre of hell.
The reality of hell is presented throughout the New Testament. Often associated with eternal flames, Jude also describes it here as blackest darkness. Hell cannot be a place of both fire and darkness, so both are ways to capture the pain and horror of hell. Foremost among the suffering people will endure is the realization that they are separated forever for the love and presence of God. Those who reject God will succeed in living without him.
As unpopular as hell might be today, it is important in addressing the question of justice. God offers love and mercy to all, but sin and evil should be punished. We all know this instinctively when we hear of crimes that go unpunished. Our systems of justice are imperfect, so we fear the idea of eternal punishment. But God’s justice is based on his perfect knowledge and love.
Jude ends his short letter with a reminder of God’s love and mercy. Jesus cried over those who refused to come to him (Matthew 23:37), and God desires that no one goes to hell (1 Tim 2:3). No one should rejoice in the existence of hell. Our focus should be on the gift of eternal life that God offers to everyone. This should lead to change in our lives and concern for those who have not experienced God’s love or doubt its existence. We might hope God’s love alone will draw people to him, but Jesus also reminded people that justice would prevail. Hell has not ceased to exist just because it existence has become unpopular.