Korah's Rebellion
Is It Still Happening Today?
by Sandy Simpson, DITC, 7/01

The story of Korah is mentioned, in particular, in two places in the Bible -- Numbers 16 and Jude.  Jude uses the story of Korah as an example of false teachers in his day.  Jude was addressing an early group of false brethren who called themselves Christians but were really wolves in sheep's clothing among the elect.  The people he made reference to and compared to Cain, Balaam and Korah were possibly the Nicolaitans or early Christian gnostics.

Who these errorists were, it is not easy now to determine.  The leading charge against them, both by Jude and Peter, (#2Pe 2:1,) is, that they denied our Lord, (#Jude 1:4;) and yet it is said that they were numbered among Christians, and were found in their assemblies, #2Pe 2:13; Jude 1:12. By this denial, however, we are not to suppose that they literally and professedly denied that Jesus was the Christ, but that they held doctrines which amounted to a denial of him in fact.  See Barnes "2Pe 2:1". For the general characteristics of these teachers, see Intro. to 2 Pet. % 4.

At this distance of time, and with our imperfect knowledge of the characteristics of the early erroneous sects in the church, it is difficult to determine precisely who they were. It has been a common opinion, that reference is had by Peter and Jude to the sect of the Nicolaitanes; and this Opinion, Hug remarks, is "neither improbable nor incompatible with the expressions of the two apostles, so far as we have any certain knowledge concerning this sect." "The statements of the ancients, in regard to their profligacy and their detestable course of life, are so consonant with each other and with the charges of the apostles, that the two epistles may be pertinently considered as referring to them."—Introduction, % 182. (Barnes New Testament Notes)

He briefly and forcibly represents the detestable doctrines and practices of certain false teachers, generally supposed to be the impure Gnostics, Nicolaitans and followers of Simon Magus; and reproves these profligate perverters of sound principles, and patrons of lewdness, with a holy indignation and just severity; while at the same time he exhorts all sound Christians, with genuine apostolic charity, to have tender compassion on these deluded wretches, and to endeavour vigorously to reclaim them from the ways of hell, and pluck them as brands out of the fire.  There is a great similarity in sentiment and style between this Epistle and the second chapter of the second Epistle of Peter.  Both writers are nearly alike in vehemence and holy indignation against impudence and lewdness, and against those who insidiously undermine chastity, purity, and sound principles. (Treasury Of Scripture Knowledge)

So it appears that Jude, in this general epistle, was addressing a number of false teachers in general.  On this basis I think it is appropriate to use the story of Korah (as well as Cain and Balaam) as Jude did in exposing the motives, teachings and judgment looming for false teachers.  There is a great balance in Jude between condemnation of false teachers and false prophets and the responsibility of the church to not only rebuke them but attempt to pull them from the fire.

What does Jude say in comparing false brethren to Korah?

Jude 1:11  Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
What was Korah's rebellion?  We need to look at the account of Korah and the others that followed him to see what Jude was talking about.  I believe we can see many similarities to the modern Gnostics of our day, in particular teachers and prophets in the Third Wave.

Numbers 16

1 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites— Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth— became insolent
2  and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.
3  They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?"
4  When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.
5  Then he said to Korah and all his followers: "In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him.
6  You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers
7  and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!"
8  Moses also said to Korah, "Now listen, you Levites!
9  Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?
10  He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.
11  It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?"
12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, "We will not come!
13  Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us?
14  Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!"
15  Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, "Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them."
16  Moses said to Korah, "You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow— you and they and Aaron.
17  Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it— 250 censers in all— and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also."
18  So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
19  When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly.
20  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
21  "Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once."
22  But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, "O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?"
23 Then the LORD said to Moses,
24  "Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’"
25  Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him.
26  He warned the assembly, "Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins."
27  So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
28  Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea:
29  If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me.
30  But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt."
31  As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart
32  and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions.
33  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
34  At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!"
35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
36  The LORD said to Moses,
37  "Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy—
38  the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites."
39  So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar,
40  as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.
41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. "You have killed the LORD’s people," they said.
42  But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared.
43  Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting,
44  and the LORD said to Moses,
45  "Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once." And they fell facedown.
46  Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started."
47  So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.
48  He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.
49  But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.
50  Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.

Before we go into a study of this passage we must first look at what happened just before the rebellion of Korah to put it into its proper perspective.  The context is that the Israelites had just refused to possess Caanan, had been judged by God and told that no one from that generation would enter the promised land.  Then the Israelites, seeing their error, decided to go in and try to possess the land without the blessing of God and were defeated.  It was in this context that many leaders, instead of seeing their terrible sins against God, rebelled against Moses and Aaron.

Analogy #1 - Unrepentant sin begets more serious sin.  We often see in our day that when there is unrepentant sin that instead of making people repentant it simply makes them more belligerent.  Many of the false teachers in the Third Wave today come from a background of lesser error.  The Pentecostal errors of forcing people to speak in tongues as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and claiming that a person can be saved without that Baptism has grown into major errors such as "transferable impartations" and demonic manifestations.  The Word-Faith errors based in New Thought, Gnosticism and eastern mysticism continue and grow in the Word-Faith churches and these doctrines have successfully infiltrated the church through televangelists and popular books such as the Prayer of Jabez.  Those who do not repent of false doctrine always end up in more serious false doctrine.  We are told to separate ourselves from those in rebellion, but we will see that in the story of Korah.