Dignitaries (New King James) or dignities (King James) literally means "glorious ones," and it refers to the apostles. However, the indignity does not end there because to disrespect them is to also disrespect the One who sent them, as Jesus reveals in Matthew 10:40.
This evil is covered in Exodus 22:28: "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people." II Peter 3:3 alerts us "that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts." Today, the disrespect is boldly, openly, and directly aimed at God. These vile people not only disrespect God verbally, but they also do so in their public, influential conduct. Never has there been such a universal irreverence for our Creator since the period before the Flood. The worst offenders in this nation are those who are younger and who have been thoroughly schooled in liberalism's concepts.
On the surface, God's sovereignty appears to have been eclipsed, but we must not think this. God is in absolute and complete control. Though it may appear that Satan and his evil influences are in control, it is not the reality. We can be deceived if we allow this line of thinking to continue.
What does the Bible say to the mind of faith? I Timothy 6:15-16 proclaims who is God and who is in control! "[W]hich He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power." This is He about whom they speak evil and at whom they scoff. His time is coming, and we appear to be on its cusp.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Sovereignty
In these seven verses, Jude expands on his general description of false teachers in verse 4. He compares them in turn to the unbelieving Israelites, to the angels that sinned, and finally to the perverts in Sodom and vicinity. He is giving examples of the three major hallmarks of apostasy:
Unbelief, the Israelites' major failing.
Rebellion, which the angels who sinned did.
Immorality, what occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Unbelief, rebellion, and immorality all result in divine judgment and punishment. The Israelites died in the wilderness, the angels that sinned were placed under restraint, and Sodom and Gomorrah were blasted off the face of the earth. We cannot find better examples of divine judgment and punishment than these.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude is attacking false prophets, and thus men and demons are interwoven in the context. He indicts these false prophets for three sins:
1. Lust: They defile the flesh, allowing a feeling to take them over the edge into sin.
2. Rebellion: They flout authority in general, but primarily that of Christ. It is hidden in the Greek, but the word authority is really "lordship." It normally refers to Christ and His lordship over us.
3. Disrespect or disregard of spirit beings.
This third sin is interesting because he is saying that it is not that these false prophets will not talk about Satan, but their speech is gratuitous, despising, or denigrating of angelic powers. Their preaching suggests that these demons are not something Christians need to be concerned about. They side-step the issue.
Why would they do that? Because a false spirit is leading them, so they downgrade the existence and powers of demons through their preaching. This is clearly seen in Protestant Christianity, especially the mainline denominations that have gone to the point that they almost universally agree that Satan the Devil and his demons do not really exist. It shows how successful the demons have been in their deceptions.
On the other hand, there are evangelical or Pentecostal groups who talk about demons and Satan in a flippant, dismissive way: "Oh, we're going to put down the Devil tonight!" They say such things in their tent shows as part of their evangelistic campaigns. But what they are doing? They are putting Satan into a position where they seem to have power over him. They are so deceived.
The truth in regard to Satan is somewhere in between. The true church of God will have that truth, and they will understand that, yes, Satan is, he is powerful, but because of God, they do have power over him in that they can reject him and his deceptions. We are not puppets on a string, and he cannot influence us unless we give him the opportunity. If we are spiritually aware and can see him at work, we do not have to submit to him.
Jude is giving us signs to look for in the preaching of false ministers. They will denigrate Satan and his demons, there will be indications of lusts, and they will flout the authority of Jesus Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)
Jude calls these false ministers "dreamers," but this really is a poor translation. It should properly be: "Likewise also these, as a result of dreaming, defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries." Their new beliefs that they teach to the church are based on dreams, on visions, on foolish imaginations of their hearts, and—who knows?—trips on LSD. The basis for their false teachings is from anywhere but from God.
The apostle is pinpointing specific Gnostic beliefs: debauchery, total freedom from authority, and even insulting angels (the literal understanding of "speaking evil of dignitaries." Dignitaries is literally "glorious ones").
Gnostics believed that a person was free to do whatever he wanted, debauch himself to any extent, and God would forgive it, for He is gracious.
They believed that no one had authority over them, that they were free from law, and that they were free from government because they were spiritual. No one, then, could tell them what to do. They had progressed beyond all need for physical law of any type of authority, court, or physical government.
Lastly, they were so self-willed that they would even reject the authority of angels, believing that they were higher than the angels, forgetting or ignoring that Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 say that God has left man for a little while lower than the angels. The Gnostics had already exalted themselves above the angels, so they had no fear of speaking evil of them. This put them in an exalted position, and the ideas that lesser humans have to adhere to are below them and thus comtemptible. Being beyond all law and government, they can do whatever they want, and no one can stop them.
It's no coincidence that one of the hallmarks of apostasy today is a total rejection of government. It is the number one problem in the church. No one wants to be governed. Such modern Gnostics say such pious things as, "Only God governs me," which is a false teaching. They have placed themselves above their station, which is exactly what Korah did, as Jude goes on to mention. Since government tends to point out and punish evil doing, these apostates thing that, if they get rid of government and law, they will be free to do whatever they please without any oversight.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Jude 1:8:
2 Kings 4:27-31