“and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” (2 Peter 2:10–11, NASB95)
Alexander Pope, who is regarded as a master of the heroic couplet form of poetry, wrote “An Essay on Criticism” in 1709, and it has subsequently influenced many others in their writing. From the over 7,500 words in the poem we have such famous phases as:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”
“Some valuing those of their own side or mind, Still make themselves the measure of mankind; Fondly we think we honour merit then, When we but praise ourselves in other men.”
“Good nature and good sense must ever join; To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
“Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, And taught more pleasant methods of salvation; Where Heav'n's free subjects might their rights dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute:”
And, “Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
In his poem, Pope went after many issues of man and his pride, particularly those in leadership. Among them were those in the pulpits who he chastised as not knowing God, but professing strongly to proclaim His words. We see this in the last couple of quotes that specifically refer to “unbelieving priests” teaching “more pleasant methods of salvation” and in the words just before probably the most famous quote in the poem. It was these men standing in the pulpit proclaiming whatever it was that offended him that he referred to as “fools” rushing in “where angels fear to tread.”
Peter had been writing about false teachers coming into the church in verses 1-3, who would lead many people astray. In the next verses, Peter wrote about the certainty and the severity of God’s judgment toward those who lived opposed to him. Here in these two verses Peter speaks to the foolishness of these men who are so bold as even to revile heavenly authority. People such as this have no regard for God or His angels. They speak and do as they please, and some even do it from the pulpits in so-called churches of God. Pope wrote of people who made themselves the measure of mankind and subsequently valued only those who were on their own side or who supported their own way of thinking. This is a very dangerous place to be when man lives as if he is god.
They might outwardly identity themselves with God and Christ, but their hearts, their words, and their actions declare that they are about themselves. Verse 10 identifies some distinguishing features of such people. The first is their lustful or sensual desires. They are driven by what they want and manipulating people and situations in order to achieve it. For them right gives way to want, and they will go after it with their whole hearts as they fully indulge themselves in their twisted or corrupted desires. For them, lines give way to favor license.
These men also despise authority. Not regarding the authority of God as anything to be reckoned with they also despise the authority of man. They become their own self-rule in their hearts and as much as they are able to live it out in their actions. Using similar examples as Peter just did, Jude wrote:
“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. 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. 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. 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.” (Jude 7–13, NASB95)
It is easy to look out into the world, and particularly our own country with the great amount of discord and the tensions existing on many extremes to see they type of things of which Peter and Jude wrote. But, both men were not as focused on the outside world as much as they were in the church. Jude’s said that, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feat with you without fear, caring for themselves.” What we have here is a strong warning against those who come among us as Christians and who boldly proclaim other things. Those who do such things have no reservations about it. They live without fear, and in the words of Pope, these “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Even the angels know better. While these men revile angelic majesties (Jude 8), we read that even the archangel, Michael, refused to go there. In Jude 9 we read, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil [Satan] and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” Michael recognized clearly in the midst of a dispute with Satan that it was not in his power to judge or even rebuke him. He entrusted it to God with the words, “The Lord rebuke you!” And if God’s angels recognize this authority belonging to god, then how much more should we realize in the midst of supernatural spiritual warfare that we should respond the same.
It is incumbent on us and particularly the leadership of our churches to be on the guard against and to reject false teachers, but even in this we are also to realize that it is God who stands as their standard and their judge. We have no authority over them, but Christ has all authority given to Him by the Father. The reality is that if they will not listen to God, then why should we expect that they will listen to us. What we are better served to do is to guard ourselves against falsehood and anything that turns our attention from Him so that we don’t become prideful ourselves as we build up and encourage one another to do likewise in the worship of our great God.
Jude ended his short letter with these words: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25, NASB95)