12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. 14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
In 1997, the Haitian death squad leader and mass murderer Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was interviewed by British journalist and author Jon Ronson. Ronson writes about this interview in his fascinating book, The Psychopath Test. Constant founded a death squad in Haiti called FRAPH that launched a reign of terror against supporters of the former Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. FRAPH, under Toto’s direction, was brutal. Jonson writes:
According to human rights groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch, when FRAPH caught an Aristide supporter, they’d sometimes slice off the person’s face. When a group of Aristide supporters holed up in a shantytown called Cité Soleil, Constant’s men turned up with gasoline—this was December 1993—and burned the place to the ground. At one point that day some children tried to run away from the fire. The men from FRAPH caught them and forced them back inside their burning homes. There were fifty murders that day, and many other bloodbaths during Constant’s reign. In April 1994, for example, FRAPH men raided a harbor town, Raboteau, another center of Aristide support. They arrested and beat and shot and dunked into the open sewers all the residents they could catch. They commandeered fishing boats so they could shoot people fleeing across the sea.
The modus operandi of FRAPH was to team up with members of the Haitian Armed Forces in midnight raids of the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Gonaives and other cities. In a typical raid, the attackers would invade a house in search of evidence of pro-democracy activity, such as photos of Aristide. The men of the house would frequently be abducted and subjected to torture; many would be summarily executed. The women would frequently be gang-raped, often in front of the remaining family members. The ages of documented victims range from as young as 10 to as old as 80. According to witness reports, sons were forced at gunpoint to rape their own mothers.
Constant was arrested in the United States and imprisoned but, after insinuating that he could prove CIA involvement in his activities, he was released by American authorities, given a green card, and told that his punishment was that he could not leave the burrough of Queens in New York except to check in with immigration services one hour each week in Manhattan.
It was in Queens that Ronson interviewed Toto. He said the interview was strange and surreal. He asked Toto what he did all day and Toto took him to a room in which was something that surprised Jon Ronson a great deal.
We climbed the stairs. I looked apprehensively behind me. We reached a doorway. He opened it. I took in the room.
On every table, every surface, there were the kinds of tiny plastic figures that come free with McDonald’s and Burger King promotions—little Dumbos and Goofys and Muppets from Space and Rugrats and Batmen and Powerpuff Girls and Men in Black and Luke Skywalkers and Bart Simpsons and Fred Flintstones and Jackie Chans and Buzz Lightyears and on and on.
We looked at each other.
“What impresses me most about them is the artistry,” he said.
“Do you arrange them into battalions?” I asked.
“No,” he said. There was a silence.
“Shall we go?” he murmured, I think regretting his decision to show me his army of plastic cartoon figurines.
Throughout the interview, Toto utterly denied that he had ever done anything wrong. He called all of the accusations lies. Then, to Ronson’s surprise, he pretended, badly, to cry. Ronson says the ruse was obvious.
As their time together ended, Ronson and the mass murderer went to the door of the apartment building in Queens. What Ronson writes next is somehow strangely chilling.
Our time together ended soon afterward. He showed me to his door, the epitome of good manners, laughing, giving me a warm handshake, saying we’ll meet again soon. Just as I reached my car I turned around to wave again, and when I saw him, I felt a jolt pass through me—like my amygdala had just shot a signal of fear through to my central nervous system. His face was very different, much colder, suspicious. He was scrutinizing me hard. The instant I caught his eye, he put on that warm look again. He grinned and waved. I waved back, climbed into the car, and drove away.
For some reason, this little scene has frightened me since the first time I read it. Ronson looking back and catching the domesticated, living-in-Queens, friendly, amiable, prone-to-tears, happy-meal-toy-loving Constant Toto staring at him with a contorted and hostile face is very jarring.
For a moment, Toto’s mask slipped, and Ronson caught it!
There is something here we must understand: Some men who like the toys in happy meals also like burning men, women, and children alive. Some men who live in apartment buildings and will sit and laugh with you will also send out death squads to murder and to maim. Some men who pretend to cry will laugh when at unspeakable horrors.
Brothers and sisters, some men wear masks, and, if you are diligent, you can see the horror beneath the smile.
Jude paints a similar picture of heretics. In Jude, he is going to talk about the mask that heretics wear but also about the shocking reality that the mask hides. He is going to do this through a series of metaphors, and it is vitally important that we heed what he says.
Heretics always hide the dagger behind the smile.
We have already established that “heresy” applies to those false teachings that threaten the very foundation of the faith. The word “heretics” applies to those who teach and spread these heresies. Jude is warning the church against these heretics. He now moves to a series of images, of metaphors, that describe what these teachers are like. And these metaphors all point to a singular truth: heretics always hide the dagger beneath the smile.
12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
There is a saying that has become popular that I really like: “Metaphors be with you!” Indeed! Jude is saying, “Metaphors be with you!” He is here painting six paintings, giving us six pictures, to describe what these false teachers are like.
- “hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear”
- “shepherds feeding themselves”
- “waterless clouds, swept along by winds” (Proverbs 25:24—Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.)
- “fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted”
- “wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame” (Isaiah 57:20—But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.)
- “wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever”
You will note that the first four images depict phenomena that promise something but then reveal the dagger behind the mask. The first image promises smooth sailing on calm waters, but behind the mask are boat-destroying and life-threatening reefs that you cannot see! The second image promises a shepherd who loves and cares for his flock, but behind the mask we see a shepherd that neglects the flock and only cares about himself. The third image promises rain for the parched ground that desperately needs it, but behind the mask there is nothing but more barrenness: the clouds never deliver. The fourth image promises, at first glance, sweet and nourishing fruit, but behind the mask we see that the tree is dead and has even been uprooted: it can never produce anything!
The final two images are images of destruction unmasked. The false teachers are like wild waves. They are dangerous. They will kill you. They will drown a church and drown you along with it! And the sixth image is of wandering stars, an image that ancient people would have applied either to planets or to comets. To ancient people there were malevolent forces behind the movement of heavenly bodies. A comet might actually be, they thought, a fallen angel from heaven. So these heretics were fallen, destructive, forces of evil!
Church, you must learn to turn quickly and catch a glimpse of the true face behind the mask that false teachers wear! There is danger lurking beneath the surface!
Heretics always stoke the wrath of a jealous God.
One again, Jude sounds a note of judgment for these heretics and, once again, he appeals to Jewish traditional stories to depict this judgment.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
We must learn again to tremble at heresy, at false teachings, seeing, yes, the dagger behind the mask but seeing too the judgment that will come upon it! We must stop being titillated and amused by false teachers and their false teachings. We must learn again to be horrified at that which distorts gospel truth.
Do not giggle at heretics. Weep over them.
Do not indulge heretics. Flee from them.
False teachers and false teachings have destroyed many lives and they are nothing to be trifled with.
In 1912, Hilaire Belloc wrote:
We sit by and watch the Barbarian, we tolerate him; in the long stretches of peace we are not afraid.
We are tickled by his irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us: we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond: and on these faces there is no smile.
We permit our jaded intellects to play with drugs of novelty for the fresh sensation they arouse, though we know well there is no good in them, but only wasting at the last.
I am pleading with you to return to such a high view of the truth that distortions of it agitate your soul. “The Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones” against those who pervert the truth and who erode the foundations of the church and who embrace ungodliness.
May I remind us that our God is jealous for His church.
for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14)
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5a-b)
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)
He will not sit idly by while His church is ravaged by wolves.
Heretics are always ultimately in it for themselves.
Finally, the heretic does not care about you. They will mask their true hearts, their true intent, and their actual fruit. Jude 16 unmasks who they really are.
16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
The first trait mentioned in verse 16 is that they “are grumblers.” Gene Green observes that “the word is onomatopoeic in Greek [gongysmon], capturing the low tones of disgruntled talk.” But what are they grumbling about? Douglas Moo makes an interesting observation concerning this question.
Who are they grumbling against and finding fault with? Church leaders, some say. But the biblical background of the term “grumbler” suggests that these false teachers are directing their complaints against God himself. The word used here often occurs in Old Testament passages that depict Israelites “grumbling” against God for bringing the people out of Egypt into the inhospitable desert (see, e.g., Ex. 16:7–12; 18:3; Num. 14:27–29; 17:5, 10). The false teachers, perhaps, are complaining about the restrictions that God’s law has placed on their “freedom” to behave as they want.
This final point would make sense given how “following their own sinful desires” immediately follows. It is an interesting and important observation to make and one that is anecdotally verified on a fairly consistent basis. Time and time again it would seem that false teachers in our day end up eroding the sexual strictures of scripture. Show me a person who plays fast and loose with doctrine and I will show you a person who is almost certainly going to end up questioning the scripture view of marriage, human sexuality, and, in our day, gender. It is inevitable. It almost always happens.
Church beware the person of the perpetual bad attitude. Beware the person for whom nothing is ever right. Beware the person who insists on doing whatever he or she wants. Above all of this, however, is a greater warning: beware the person who wants you to forget whose the church is! Paul, in Ephesians 5, tells us:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Church, you are Christ’s! You do not belong to any teacher, no matter how persuasive and charismatic and powerful and wise and insightful that teacher may appear to be. And church, you are to tremble only before Christ, not before any person who wants to wield authority over you. Respect the church’s leadership, yes, but do not give any human being a blank check to your mind or your heart. You are Christ’s and all of us will answer to Christ!
Beware the person who seeks to tinker with the body of Christ for his or her own gain!
Beware the false teacher!
 Jon Ronson. The Psychopath Test (pp. 121-122). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., p.125.
 Ibid., p.126.
 Hilaire Belloc. This and That and the Other. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company), p.282.
 Green, Gene. Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 108). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Moo, Douglas J. 2 Peter, Jude (The NIV Application Commentary Book 18) . Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.