In these “last days” before the return of our Lord, how will we recognize an apostate? Jude 12-13 gives us the portrait of an apostate. He is a spiritual felon, a spiritual criminal, someone who is dangerous and whom you must be able to recognize. Five clear, graphic word pictures of the marks of an apostate can be found in this passage.

“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.”

Understand, the devil is not against religion. No, he’s immersed in religion and uses religion! It was a religious crowd that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. Most people don’t need more religion. They need to turn from religion to Jesus Christ. 

When we say “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints,” the phrase “earnestly contend” contains the word we get “agonize” from. We’re to agonize for the faith. Some call us narrow and bigoted. But today, once-great churches, denominations and schools are honeycombed with apostasy and liberalism. It is heartbreaking. 

An apostate is not someone in a false cult or just an unbeliever. Those people may be lost, but they are not “apostates.” Apostasy means “to fall away from.” This is someone who has known the truth, then turns his back on and opposes the truth. He has received, then rejected, the truth. An apostate begins to ridicule the truth, then tries to replace the truth. A survey once taken at a meeting of the National Council of Churches revealed that of the pastors and laymen present, only half believed in the deity of Christ! Only 1 in 4 believed in His miracles, 1 in 3 said Satan doesn’t exist, and 1 in 3 believe there is no life after death.  

Unfortunately, the apostate doesn’t just leave and start his own church. He comes back through the side door (Jude says, “They have crept in”) to undermine the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the church

Not only do you need to learn how to recognize an apostate, but you also need to know where the great battles are…those areas of truth under attack today.

Six Foundational Areas of Truth

These six fundamental doctrines must be anchored in your heart and soul.

The virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 7:14). Your eternal destiny hinges upon it. If Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin, He was as sinful as you are. If He was sinful as you are, there could be no blood atonement because a Holy God would not accept an unholy sacrifice. No blood atonement, no salvation. No salvation, no regeneration. No regeneration, no Heaven for you. And, my dear friend, without the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are lost without hope.

The full deity of Christ. Jesus was not just a great leader, a religious figure, a prophet. He was God. In Jesus Christ, God was manifest in the flesh. “The Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word was made flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:1,14).

The blood atonement. Jesus “died for our sins according to the scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:3).  “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The doctrine of substitutionary death, the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, is especially repugnant and abhorrent to the liberal and the apostate.

The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ — that He literally came out of that grave. Apostate theologians talk about the “deathless spirit of Christ that goes marching on,” fuzzy concepts like that. Oh, my friend, I want to tell you that the faith that we preach and believe in is the faith of an empty tomb. Never minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The second coming of Jesus Christ — His literal, visible return. He is coming back to earth, actually, bodily, physically.

Lastly, the authority of the Word of God — its inerrancy, infallibility, immutability, and impeccability. The Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible Word.

Apostates do not like these bedrock truths. You need to be able to recognize an apostate when you see one. To do that, you need to know what the great fundamentals of the faith are. 

These are not all the things we believe, nor are they all of the fundamentals of the faith. But having these six basics in your head will help you recognize an apostate when you meet one.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the five word pictures Jude gives us to recognize those not truly of the household of faith. This is a good time to search within your own heart. Are these truths anchored in your soul? Are you unreservedly convinced of the basic truths God has revealed to us in His Word?