"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 12-13)Jude was well aware that some of the most formidable false prophets and false teachers would arise, not only from without, but also from within the church. Paul, as he was on his way to Jerusalem, and then onto Rome, warned the elders in every city he passed through, "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears." (Acts 20:29-31) A false prophet and false teacher is more than someone who is wrong, they are someone who teaches "perverse" things and seek to lead people away from the true faith of the Gospel. To this, Jude adds other markers of false teachers and prophets.
First, they are self-centered. The picture is of one participating with you in your love feasts but only concerned with themselves; with feeding themselves and satisfying their hunger and glutinous desires. We know that this was a problem in the church of Corinth. Paul rebuked them saying, "Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you." (1 Corinthians 11:20-22) Like them, these men are lead by their stomachs and their highest aim is to satisfy their animal desires.
Secondly, they were men of empty promises; their lives and message looked promising, but in the end yield only vanity. They are like "clouds without water," promising relief and refreshing to a dry and weary land, yet they have nothing within themselves to give. For all their promises, they leave behind only disappointment and discouragement. They are like the ones Peter spoke of who, "These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved." (2 Peter 2:17-19)
Thirdly, they are wild, reckless, and careless. Their lives are like a slow motion train crash, taking with them everything and everyone within their midst. They ruin not only their own lives but the many other lives of those around them. Not only are they themselves defiled by their own works of shame, but they cast up that same filth and shame upon all who venture into their waters and who are troubled by their waves. No one can stand by them without becoming defiled in turn.
Finally, they follow a path of error leading to eternal destruction. They are wanderers. The Greek word used here is the same word from which we get our word for "Planets." All the stars follow fixed arcs across the skies. However, there were seven object that early astronomers noticed that "wandered" from the "true" path. These luminaries they called "planets." These men wander from the truth and have chosen a path that leads to death and destruction. All who follow them follow this same path, a path that ends in the eternal "black darkness" of hell.
We must live circumspect lives let we too fall into error and sin. Not everything spiritual is godly. Not every knowledge is truth. Not every freedom leads to holiness. Not every cloud has rain. We must live careful lives, remaining stead fast to our Lord and to His way of truth.