Jude 12-13 continues to describe the Jude 4 people. Taking the two texts together, they read as follows.
Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ . . . 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.
That these folks go unnoticed within the congregation calls for further comment. In teaching on effectual calling, Westminster Confession of Faith 10:4 speaks of the common operations of the Spirit. “Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved.” Chad Van Dixhhoorn makes this observation:
Here we are reminded that there are some who are able to hear the ministry of God’s Word but not the true call of God. Our Lord sums this up by saying, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 22:14). They may joyfully hear preaching and decide to change their lives (Matt. 13:20, 21). Incredibly, they might be permitted to prophesy, cast out demons, do wonderful works, and even have a taste of the work of the Spirit (Matt. 7:22; Heb. 6:4, 5). And yet they might not genuinely love Christ at all . . . There are some who appear to come to Christ, but while their feet carry them down an aisle, or the confession of their mouths brings them into the visible church, their hearts have never been moved by the gospel. They did not really come to Christ at all (Confessing the Faith, 156-157).
Robert Shaw further explains, “That there are’ common operations of the Spirit,’ which produce convictions of sin, by means of the law in the conscience; and joyous emotions, by means of the gospel, in the affections of men in their natural state; which do not issue in conversion” (An Exposition of the Confession of Faith, 123). Individuals within the congregation may enjoy these common operations of the Spirit, receive real conviction of sin, and receive actual tastes of the Spirit yet never enjoy. This fact goes unnoticed, as Jude 4 indicates.
Jude 4 also stipulates that such people “long ago were designated” for this condemnation. Verse 11 pronounces a curse, “Woe to them!” Jude 13 declares that these are people “for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” True believers, on the other hand, have a reservation in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). These truths declare what we call double predestination. Westminster Confession 3:8 teaches us how we ought to handle these solemn truths. “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.” Therefore, our exposition of Jude should lead us into the light of grace and assurance.
With all of the above in mind, Jude 12-13 uses several metaphors to describe the people of verse 4: hidden reefs, clouds without water, trees without fruit, waves of the sea, wandering stars. Hidden reefs are outcroppings of coral and rock just below the surface of the water. Love feasts are congregational gatherings for meals culminating in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Fellowship meals and celebrations of the Lord’s Supper should testify to God’s love for His people and the people’s mutual love for one another. The presence of individuals “caring only for themselves” alters this testimony. Shipwreck may be inevitable.
Clouds on the horizon offer the confidence of rain. Clouds without water provide no hope for refreshment. Apparent conversions furnish an expectation of new life within the congregation but are bitterly disappointing. They are like trees that bear no fruit and must be uprooted and destroyed. They are doubly dead, totally depraved, and reserved for outer darkness. The powerful waves of the sea present a picture of pride. Yet when they crash on the beach, they are full of foam and mud and sludge. Pride too often leads to embarrassment and a catastrophic fall.
Jesus Christ appears in the Book of Revelation with seven stars in His right hand, which are the seven angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:16, 20). John the Baptist was God’s messenger or angel (ἄγγελόν). The angels of the seven churches are their pastors. It could be that the people of Jude 4 include stars, pastors and teachers, who do not hew the line of true doctrine but wander off course and lead God’s people astray. Outer darkness is their final awful destination.
The opposite is true of you when you “make certain of God’s calling you and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). How so? Second Peter 1:5-8 answers.
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The most important thing to know in all of life is that you belong to Christ by faith in Him. You validate your faith in Christ by how you live (James 2:24). And so, trust Christ; pursue Christ; serve Christ!