Would you be able to recognize an apostate? The book of Jude provides five word pictures describing an apostate.
“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. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (v. 12-14)
These five graphic descriptions create a portrait of the apostate to hang in the gallery of our mind with the warning “Beware.”
A Dangerous Sunken Rock
“These are spots in your feasts of charity.” (v. 12)
The word used here for “spot” is found in Scripture only once and literally means a sunken rock. Apostates are hidden rocks beneath the surface. A rock above the water line is not nearly so dangerous. You can say, “Hey, there’s a rock. Be careful.” Not so a rock just beneath the surface. Have you ever been out in a boat when it’s gone aground? I have. You’re so happy, having a wonderful time skimming along, and suddenly there’s a horrible sound and a lurch. You look down and your feet are getting wet. Water is coming in. A rock has ripped the belly out of the boat.
Why does Jude say apostates are rocks in your feast of love? The early church would meet together for what they called an agape feast, a wonderful time in God’s love boat, just sailing along, everyone so happy. Love and fellowship — everything seems so blessed. Then suddenly, a grinding halt — a horrible, rending sound. The old Ship of Zion is wounded in her side. What happened? Some devilish apostate has become a rock in the river of love, dividing that he might destroy the fellowship of God. The thing that holds us together is our love for Jesus Christ and our unity in the great truths we preach. Destroy that, and you’ve destroyed the church. The Devil hates the love, unity and fellowship of the church. He’ll put a rock in the river of love that our ship of fellowship might go aground. We must earnestly contend for the faith because apostasy is dangerous — like a hidden rock.
A Deceptive Waterless Cloud
“Clouds they are without water carried about of winds.” (v. 12)
In the Middle East, rain is vitally important. How terrible to see a waterless cloud overhead, driven by the wind, bringing not one drop of rain. Apostates are bags of wind, promising much but producing little. “Who so boasteth himself of a false gift is like a cloud and wind without rain” (Proverbs 25:14).
This Sunday, people will sit in an apostate church hearing an apostate preacher — a pompous religious windbag — a cloud without water. No Holy Spirit, no Bible truth, no conversion, no joy, no victory in Jesus there. Many will not even know something’s missing.
A Dead, Fruitless Tree
“Trees whose fruit withereth. Without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (v. 12)
A Christian is to “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth his fruit in a season, his leaf also shall not wither…” (Psalm 1:3). But an apostate is a dead tree taking up space in the garden.
Dead trees are plucked up by the roots because they are twice dead — dead because they don’t produce any fruit and dead when they’re thrown into the fire. Jesus said, “I’ve chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain.” There’s no fruitfulness in the life of an apostate. He can imitate Christianity, but he cannot bear fruit.
A Disturbed, Raging Sea
“Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame.” (v. 13)
A seething sea of discontent, the apostate’s heart knows no peace with himself or God.
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). When he comes into a church or denomination, he’ll be a troublemaker.
From his heart’s murky caverns, the apostate is a raging wave. Before long, he will spew his foam — unrest and disquiet — leaving it on the beach of humanity. He’s not at peace with himself and he doesn’t want to be at peace with you…another reason apostates are so dangerous.
A Doomed, Wandering Star
“…wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (v. 13)
A wandering star has no orbit. No longer held by the sun’s gravitational pull, it goes wandering out into the blackness of space, into some black hole forever — what the Bible would call a bottomless pit. That’s what Hell will be like for the apostate. “The mist of darkness is reserved for them forever” (2 Peter 2:17). Can you imagine? Everlasting blackness and darkness.
Our hearts should be broken for apostates. How we should pray for them! The more I read the Word of God, the more I’m convinced it’s almost impossible for an apostate to be saved. Having known the truth, they refused, ridiculed, and blasphemed the truth, and many of them stand in pulpits.God provides us with this portrait so we’ll be able to recognize an apostate and in these last days earnestly contend for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints.
When we come to Him in repentance and faith, we are empowered-and expected-to live the Christian life not by trying, but by trusting. Faith is not only how we receive salvation, it is how we walk, day by day, in grace. Only by faith can we extend forgiveness to others, share God's truth, and leave a godly legacy. As the tapestry of your life unfolds, may you begin to see the wonders of living each day, moment by moment, a life of faith and forgiveness.