Three Examples of Apostasy in Scripture – Exegesis of Jude 11

Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Jude 1:11

In my blog post this week we are going to flip back through scripture to three examples of apostasy. We are going to examine Cain, Balaam, and Korah, and study how their unbelief manifested and how it relates to apostates in Jude’s time and in our time.

The Apostasy of Cain

“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain.” Woe is used here as a denunciation of all apostates. “They have gone” is poreuomai, deriving from porus, meaning, “to travel” from one place to another. The word is used in the present tense denoting that they are continually traveling this path. “Way” is hodos and is used metaphorically as a “way of thinking” or “course of conduct”. What is interesting is that this exact word is used metaphorically in Matthew 7:13, “the way (hodos) is broad that leads to destruction.” You cannot help but link the “way” of Cain to the “way” that leads to destruction, just as it is for all apostates. With this said, let us examine the “way” that Cain traveled.

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” Genesis 4:3-5.

The phrase “in the course of time” in the Hebrew denotes “an annual event”. Meaning that Cain and Abel and all mankind, including Adam and Eve at this time brought a sacrifice to the Lord for their sin once a year. How do we know this? In Genesis 3:15 a Savior is promised that will defeat Satan and sin. Satan will bruise the Messiah on the heel, but the Messiah will crush Satan’s head (defeating evil). The coming Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement for our sin and subsequent destruction of Satan is all prophesied here. Then in Genesis 3:21 we see that “The Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Adam and Eve deserved to die for their sins, but instead of killing them, God killed an animal and clothed them with it. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, but God clothed them in animal skins, according to His standard. This animal died in their place and is a foreshadowing of the coming Christ that would be the penal substitutionary atonement for believers. The price for sin was a blood sacrifice. This blood sacrifice was to be a representation of the coming Messiah (Christ) who would die on our behalf. It had to be an animal without defect representing Christ’s sinless nature. This annual event was obviously something that God instituted with Adam and Eve and they subsequently instructed their children in this. In this passage of scripture we see that Abel’s sacrifice was obedient and met God’s exact requirements. Abel showed by his obedience that he loved God. Conversely, Cain brought the fruit of the ground and it was rejected. Cain’s actions show us something about an apostate. He knew the requirement and willingly chose not to bring it. It shows that he did not reverence God or even believe that he needed a Savior/atonement for sin. False teachers don’t reverence God, and as such, do not believe that they truly need a Savior.

We know that Cain became very angry after God rejected his sacrifice. The Hebrew word for anger “charah” literally means “to blaze up in anger”. Can you see the hypocrisy? His actions showed that he wanted nothing to do with God, so why does he get angry when God rejected his sacrifice? Cain wants to be “God”. He, like all man, doesn’t want to be under God’s sovereignty. This is what infuriates Cain. God encouraged him to repent of his sin so that it would not overtake him, but he didn’t. Instead of repenting he found his brother Abel and murdered him. He could do nothing in his power to hurt God, so he murdered someone that God loved (Abel). The very furthest that anger will take you is murder, and Cain did this very quickly. Cain never even repented from murdering his own brother. He showed himself to be a child of Satan as backed up in 1 John 3:11-12, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brothers were righteous.” Cain from the outside presented himself as a God worshipper with his “sacrifice” but showed his contempt for God and his brother in his murderous rage. I can’t tell you how many “believers” I have met that think swearing, drunkenness, and sex before marriage is okay. That God’s grace exists so that you can sin more (antinomianism). Or that there is no hell (as Rob Bell foolishly espouses) and that everyone makes it into heaven. Brothers and Sisters, if Cain were alive today, I believe he would applaud them. Why not? It is what he did. He would applaud them for going their own “way”.

In Summary:

  • Apostates on the outside profess they are believers, but their actions always reveal their crooked hearts.
  • Apostates don’t believe they need a Savior for their sin.
  • Apostates elevate themselves to the position of God and don’t recognize his sovereignty, and as such, don’t fear him.
  • Apostates are children of Satan.
  • Apostates have a deep rooted anger in their hearts like Satan. As such, they willingly lead people away from God with their deceptions, and then onto destruction. They are murderers just like Cain and Satan.

The Apostasy of Balaam

“And for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam.” The Greek word for “they rushed headlong into” is “ekcheo”. Ek means “out” and intensifies cheo, meaning “to pour”. Properly, “ran greedily” or “ran riotously”. It is used in Matthew 9:17 to denote bursting wineskins whose contents spill everywhere. Balaam ran riotously into error (planao), which means “A wandering/forsaking of the right path”. You can literally say that apostates have nothing to restrain them from wandering into error/sin.

So, what is the error of Balaam which all apostates follow? I believe that the apostle Peter gives us a clear definition of what his error was? Speaking of apostates in 2 Peter 2:15-16 he says, “forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” Balaam was a prophet for hire in the OT. A man that loved money more than God and it showed in his prophecies. His story of treachery is revealed in Numbers 22-24. For the sake of space I will just quote essential verses that will give you a basic picture, but I encourage you to read these 3 chapters in their entirety, as well as Numbers 25:1-18.

“Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. Numbers 22:2-3

“So He (Balak) sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to all him, saying, ‘Behold, a people came out of Egypt; Behold they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. Now, therefore please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” Numbers 22:4-5

Balak knew that Israel was too mighty a force to stop, so he needed supernatural help. He called out to Balaam already having heard of his successful resume of both blessing and cursing. He desired Balaam to levy a curse on Israel so that they would be stopped from entering Moab’s lands. Balak sent a group of elders to Balaam with the money to pay his fee. Upon meeting Balaam, he asks the elders to stay the night and he will inquire of the Lord. Balaam asked the Lord in v11, “Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out.”

Notice that Balaam’s statement wasn’t a question, and it really didn’t strike me as a request either. It has an air of arrogance about it that seems almost like he is directing God as to what He should do. God in his mercy and grace did not strike Balaam down, but told him that he was forbidden to curse Israel. He got up the next day and told the elders that God would not curse them, so they went back to Balak. Make no mistake, Balaam wasn’t a believer, he was a prophet for hire, he would try to communicate with the “gods” of any nation. If he was a true prophet of God then he would have been made well aware in advance from God about Israel’s arrival. Or he would have allegiance to God and as such allegiance to Israel. Then Balak sends even more distinguished men and a greater offering of wealth to try to get Balaam to curse Israel. He replies that the Lord will not let him, but he asks these men to stay the night and that he will inquire of God again. God already said, “No.” The Lord does not need to repeat himself. When God tells you, “No!” do you fight with Him and continue to ask? When you already know the answer do you continue to question him? How about when God reveals a truth in scripture that contradicts an error that you believe in your heart? Do you submit to it or do you fight it? Many of us fight it tooth and nail. It took me at least a year before I surrendered to predestination when I was challenged with God’s word. The problem was that I, like Balaam, didn’t want to accept God’s truth so I fought Him and lost. Balaam coveted the great wealth that he would receive from levying such a curse, so he went back to God and asked again. God knowing Balaam’s heart told him to go with the elders of Moab, but that he could only say what the Lord told him to say.

In verse 22, we see that Balaam is making his way to Balak, but again, knowing Balaam’s heart He could see that Balaam was intent on disobeying God and pronouncing a curse. The pre-incarnate Christ showed up with his sword drawn on the road, but could only be seen by Balaam’s donkey. The donkey turned away from the Angel of the Lord, but when he did so he received a beating from Balaam. On the third time the donkey tried to evade the Lord it just lay down and received a third, more fierce beating from Balaam. “And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?’ Then Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.’ The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?’ And he said, ‘No.’” Numbers 22:28-30

Have you ever been so set on something that when there was interference that prevented you from enjoying or obtaining it, that you immediately erupted into anger? Maybe God is protecting you from something or revealing an idol in your life. In this case, God opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw Christ with his sword drawn right in front of him ready to strike him down. The Lord corrected him and commanded him again to go with the men and ONLY say what He would tell him. Balaam’s love for money is continuously revealed in his actions, like when he beat his donkey mercilessly for keeping him from what he wanted. Balaam was not going to obey God, which is what garnered this response from the Lord. Beloved, if God reveals a truth to us and is prodding us away from something we want, then it is best that we submit or we will suffer the consequences.

When Balaam sees Israel he blesses them on three occasions and says exactly what the Lord told him to say despite Balak’s anger. However, the story does not end here:

“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.” Numbers 25:1-2.

Right after Balaam blesses Israel in Numbers 24, they begin worshipping Baal and rush into sexual sin immediately in chapter 25. What would prompt the Israelites to violate the first commandment by worshipping Baal, and committing adultery with Moabite women? Numbers 31:16 says, “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the counsel of the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord.” The implication from scripture is that Balaam instructed Balak to have the Moabite women go into the Israelite camp and seduce the men. By luring Israel’s men into sexual sin as worship to the Moabite god Baal, God, would have no other recourse but to punish them for their sin. Do you see how twisted this is? Please understand that Balaam did not manipulate God to do this. Israel, of their own accord chose to sin against God when they could have refrained.

In Summary:

  • Apostates defy the will of God like Balaam. They will fight God at every chance.
  • Apostates love money and notoriety. Balaam loved having such prestigious guests, and to be called by King Balak and offered an enormous amount of wealth was too tantalizing to turn down.
  • Apostates will be judged and destroyed. See Joshua 13:22 when Israel struck Balaam down.
  • God even uses apostates to accomplish His will.

The Apostasy of Korah

“And perished in the rebellion of Korah.” The Greek word for perish (apollumi) means “to fully destroy/eradicate.” This will be the fate of all apostates who do not repent of their wickedness. “Rebellion” is antilogia. Anti means “against” and logia derives from “lego” meaning “to speak”. Properly, it is a verbal dispute arising from an opposing viewpoint for the sole purpose of gain. You can render it as “gainsaying” or “contradiction”. The implication is that the motives are selfish, in that it is for personal gain, and with this type of opposition only comes strife. With that said, let’s look at what Korah did regarding “gainsaying”.

The rebellion of Korah is recorded for us in Numbers 16:1-32. For space purposes I am only going to cite a few verses for general background.

“Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action, and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. They assembled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” Numbers 16:1-3

What is evident here is that Korah desired Moses and Aaron’s leadership for himself. Just as Satan had usurped Adam’s position as king, making himself the ruler of this world, so too does Korah seek to usurp God’s appointed leaders of Israel. So, he went and gathered 250 supporters of high status and rallied them to his side. His accusation was that Moses and Aaron had exalted them above the whole congregation of Israel. I can imagine the murmuring: “Isn’t all Israel holy?” was their cry. “If all Israel is holy, then why are Moses and Aaron seated above us?” Korah was envious of Moses and Aaron’s position. He desired to be in control of Israel and began his plot to supplant both men. This is diabolical when you think about it. One man craves power and influence so much that he is willing to defy God’s appointed leaders of Israel (Moses and Aaron). It cries of egalitarianism, doesn’t it? “We are all equal!” We hear that in this day and age as the culture attacks God’s order in the church. Society says, “If we are equal, then you will let women pastors lead and teach the church.” This is a violation of God’s instituted order for church leadership (See 1 Timothy 2:12-14). The modern feminist movement has the same envious, God defying spirit as Korah. Which is why Philippians 2:14 tells believers, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Yet, Christians violate this constantly as we many times are not content over what the Lord has allowed in our lives. What is interesting is that apostates like Korah enter the church and use our discontent to cause division. In this instance, Korah was feeding off this discontentment with Moses and Aaron, but God came in and intervened.

“As he (Moses) finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and they perished from the midst of the assembly.” Numbers 16:31-33

One other point I may mention is that those 250 men of renown were incinerated by God. The judgment for apostasy in this life is eternal fire in the next. What I found interesting in the chapter was that Moses had all the people distance themselves from Korah and his followers, so that God could open up the earth and kill these people. Anyone who associates with apostates will suffer harm, including believers. If Jonah in his disobedience could bring innocent sailors into his storm, then imagine how much worse it is when an apostate has unbelievers and true believers following them. Look at Lot whose heart was for Sodom and how it drug him down. He offered his daughters to be raped, had to be drug out of the city by the angels, his wife turned back to look against God’s command and perished, Lot’s daughters got him inebriated and had sex with him bearing the children that would be Israel’s nemesis, Ammon and Moab. Yet, Lot was called righteous. We all fall so short of the glory of God all the time. Don’t hitch your wagons to false teachers/apostates or they will drag you down into the mire with them.

In Summary:

  • Apostates are usurpers like their father, the devil. They envy what others have and will go to whatever ends to have it.
  • Apostates have a coming judgment for their heresies.
  • Apostates love to stir division in the church for their own personal gain. They merely use those that ally with them as stepping stones or cannon fodder.

We will study Jude 12 next week.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Author: thomascoutouzis

I was born in the United States as a second generation Greek. My family comes from the Island of Kalymnos which is the island next to Patmos (Where the apostle John wrote Revelation). My wife Kathy is of Korean descent and we have two wonderful children, Chloe and Micah. We live in a small town outside of Raleigh, North Carolina called Fuquay Varina. The Lord redeemed me as a young boy as my mother (who was a believer) shared the Gospel with me. If I had to categorize my denomination I would most likely fall into the Reformed Baptist realm with some differences over non-essential doctrine. I am an expositional bible teacher who attends Fellowship Baptist Church in Willow Springs, NC. For the last few years I have been taking God's word and teaching it on outlets like Twitter and Wordpress. I am also a fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis' fantasy novels. As such I am writing a fantasy series full of adventure, while weaving deep theological truth into the story and characters. My first book, "Athanasia: The Great Insurrection" is available in both ebook and paperback currently. I am hoping to release the second book in the series, "Athanasia: The Unknown Lands" around September of 2018.

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