Recommended Reading: The Book of Jude
In our series a Fresh Look at the Bible, we have arrived at the sixty fifth book of the Bible. This letter just one chapter long. As you can see! We can see immediately that the author is Jude the brother of James. There are two candidates for this. The James here must be one very well known.
In Luke 6:16, we are introduced to the disciples of Jesus, and one of the disciples there is described as Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. However some of us might notice that the brother is in italics – signifying it isn’t there in the original and was added at a later date, so should read Judas of James, that is son of James.
The other alternative is Judas, or Jude, which incidentally, means praise, the brother of James mentioned in Matthew 13:55-56, both of which together with Joses and Simon were the half-brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. James, the Lord’s brother is described as a leading figure or pillar in the ecclesia at Jerusalem by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and also in Acts 21:18, so it is clear that James was well known, and although at first when Jesus was preaching was against Jesus, and did not understand him, after his death and resurrection he was converted, and powerfully witnessed to the truth that Jesus was Lord and Saviour, and wrote his own epistles to all the ecclesias, which we have already looked at a few months ago. So why was it necessary for Jude to describe himself as James’s brother? Modesty prevented him from saying the Lord’s brother, but by adding he was James’s brother, it would have added extra authority to his letter, because James evidently had a reputation that Jewish believers would have taken notice of.
There is good reason to believe that by now both James, and also the Apostle Peter were dead, martyred for their witness, and that Jude was writing at the very last months before the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Thus, he is continuing their warnings, endorsing their messages, and being inspired by the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, he in this little letter shows how much of what the Apostles had predicted had now come to pass. He quotes the Apostle Peter, using his very words, and shows how accurately they apply to the false teachers so rampant everywhere within the Jewish community, and wider afield. Take for example what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:3: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts", and now with what Jude says in Jude 17-18 of this letter: "But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts." Yes indeed, just as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:4-12: "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Now Jude living in the very last days, was challenging these deceivers head on. Jesus was talking to the Jews, it seems by the content of Jude’s letter that he was particularly focussing also on a Jewish audience, making copious references to the old testament, but using allusions and not always direct references, expecting his audience to be familiar with his examples, whereas Gentile converts would not necessarily be so familiar, and Jude would have needed to be more explicit. Many of the examples Jude draws his readers to, require a familiarity to know what he is referring to. He uses blunt language, attacking the false teachers, who were amongst them. It is too late to warn of those without. They had infiltrated the ecclesias, just as Paul, Peter and James warned, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. So, Jude notes in Jude 12: "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear:"
These feasts of love refer to the weekly memorial feast when they remembered the Lord Jesus as he commanded, the greatest symbol of true fellowship, being turned into a platform for these snakes. Although as we may have noted from the reading of this little letter that the tone is quite fierce and to the point, Jude is writing to warn. He is not directing his righteous anger at those who would receive his warnings, no, it is against the corrupt teachers. He is writing the letter as an act of love. He evidently is a kindly man, for we note he uses the term beloved three times in verses 3, 17 and 20. Thus the letter is to be received in the spirit that it is given.
To the Jewish Christian converts in the latter days of Judah’s commonwealth just before Jerusalem fell to the Romans, and the to be received in the same spirit by Gentiles living in the latter days, at the end times of the Gentiles. Interestingly, although Jude deals a lot with countering apostates, he does define a true believer, in simple and straightforward terms in the first two verses, which it is well worth exploring. As we have explained it is highly likely that this Jude was indeed the natural half-brother of Jesus, but he describes himself as the servant of Jesus Christ. Not only does this reveal humility, but it is his correct status.
Natural relationships are important, but not anywhere near as important as spiritual relationships, these always come first in priority. A servant. This should be more correctly translated as slave. The word is 'doulos' (δοῦλος), it is a slave. And those who have given their allegiance to Christ Jesus have declared that they have completely submitted their own will instead to Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 to the believers – you are not your own but have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Jude continues and he addresses his readers as those who are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, called, and mercy peace and love be multiplied to them. Sanctified we remember means to set apart, those who have separated themselves - not literally like monks do, but make a difference in their minds and hearts to serve as a willing slave, who surrender to the will of God. This is what being a saint really means. Set apart by God, it is his work. He determines, he chooses, and he overrules. But once we have listened to the gospel call and obeyed, we are preserved in Christ Jesus, Jude says. The Greek word for this is 'tereo' (τηρέω), and means to guard, to keep an eye upon, to watch.
This aspect Jude speaks about again in verse 21, Keep yourself in the love of God, and verse 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling… but more about these verses a little later. Jude describes his readers as those called. The Greek word is 'kletos' (κλητός), from Klesis, to call. The word 'ekklesia' (ἐκκλησία) comes from this: those called out. Here Jude uses the term also. And those who are called out, and become willing slaves and separate themselves to God’s work, are preserved, and guarded looked after, how? Jude tells us – through mercy, peace and love. The aspect of mercy will come out a bit more shortly.
Moving on to the third verse, Jude explains that although he had been eager to write about the common salvation, he now felt compelled by the Spirit instead to write to encourage his readers to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. To earnestly contend for the faith, could almost be the key phrase of the whole letter, it is that important. The Greek word for ‘contend earnestly’ is also interesting it is 'epagonisesthai' (ἐπαγωνίζομαι). Note the word hidden in there to agonise, yes it means to super agonise, a Greek sporting word, in athletes would strive for the victory, but here Jude strenuously emphasises the need to strive to maintain the purity of the doctrine which was delivered unto the saints. It has to be kept pure at all costs.
Jude then states clearly the danger, that certain men have crept in unawares, and in detail he lists the errors that they brought in. Again, Jude is just telling the situation in the present tense, a situation which so many of the apostles had warned about. Paul describes the same situation False brothers who came in unawares to spy out our liberty in Christ Jesus, and Peter warned 2Peter2: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, yes prophecy fulfilled, but Jude says unawares… creeping in... Why? It is because they don’t want their true intentions to be seen. They come into the ecclesia with false motives, the apostles often make clear why, for social reasons, or to get a following, and so on. He describes such as ungodly men. Jude uses this word 6 times. Ungodly doesn’t just mean without God, it means in defiance of God. Jude in this fourth verse explains how they are defiant against God, it is their teaching on three scores that is wrong: turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, or a license for evil, as the word denotes. Denying the only Lord God, that is saying that God is not sovereign, diminishing the Creator, and also denying the Lord Jesus Christ as being his representative.
This business of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. What was all this about? Well Paul referred to this false doctrine in his letter to the Romans 6:1 sinning deliberately that grace might bound, and in Romans 3:8 doing evil that good might come. This was a belief that if we can be forgiven our sins, then there is no need to worry any more, that you can just live as you please, and God’s mercy is such that he will forgive you for anything. It is interesting that this is in fact taught by Pentecostals to this day – unconditional salvation. But forgiveness is conditional. God’s mercy is conditional. It hinges upon the admission, confession and repentance from sins.
It is not surprising that these false teachers adopted such a convenient false doctrine, at the same time, they denied God as sovereign, that is absolute authority resides with him only, and attempting to undermine the Lord Jesus also, is of course the self-same doctrine where the Roman Catholic Church preach that absolute authority belongs to the church, and that the Pope is the vicar of Christ. Some things never seem to change. Indeed, because Jude then reminds his readers of the same defiant and unruly attitudes of revisionist teachers who sought to make their own mark, he uses four different examples of this rebellious mindset of self-elevation.
Where people attempt to make up their own rules, or religion, to conveniently allow them to practice their own sick deviant sins, in self-justified piety. Jude first uses the example of the nation of Israel who came out of Egypt, secondly certain Levites and tribe leaders who tried to overthrow the leadership of Moses and Aaron, he quotes thirdly the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, and then lastly the spiteful enemies of the returned exiles in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Now some of these examples are not explicitly stated. You might be thinking, well it doesn’t say that. You are making it up. Well, it is true, Jude is not being explicit, he is speaking to readers who he expected to be very familiar with the history of Israel, namely the Jews. So, he refers obliquely as he is short of time in writing his letter, he wants to make a general point, so expects his readers to pick up on his language the clues to understand the power of his warning. If we don’t know what he is referring to then we should look it up.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, among many, can’t be bothered to look it up, and make up a story about fallen angels and such like rubbish, which just elementary Bible study reveals the actual truth. So, the first example: Jude refers to the nation having safely being brought out of Egypt openly rebelled against the kindness and mercy of God, and thought they knew best. Out of Egypt now. Thank you, God, well we don’t need you now, bye bye, and they started dancing around the golden calf, in total abandon, with all restraint removed, as described in detail in Exodus 32, God sent a plague which consumed many of them, and 3000 perished by the sword. That rebellion was short lived, but its fallout was long lived. They were a stiff-necked people who worshipped God when it was convenient, bit like people today who turn all religious when they get cancer, or a loved one has died, and they talk about praying and listen to the sermon and shake the vicars hand, but don’t believe a word of it.
Many people think that religion is all about the salvation of man. So did Israel. Saved from Egypt. Brilliant. Now we can get on with our lives. But Israel were wrong, and religious people today are wrong. God’s purpose is not about human salvation but God manifestation. Israel were called out of Egypt to be a Holy people. They were not being holy, so God reserved the right to cut them off from being a people. They had no faith because they didn’t really believe. Of course, thinking on this we can see why Jude used such an example. However, this was not then end of the matter, because God showed his mercy. Did this mean they had learned their lesson.
Jude continues he refers to angels in Jude 6: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Now JW’s et al. use this passage to tell a tall story that this refers to angels at the time of creation who rebelled against God in heaven. Firstly, how that happen, when it says in Genesis that after creation God looked at all that he had made, and it was very good. How can Adam have introduced sin, if the angels had already rebelled in heaven? And how can God be sovereign if there are immortal angels who rebel against him? You see none of this stuff adds up. And why apply this verse to creation when the previous verse is talking about the nation of Israel?
It is important to remember that the word 'angel' does not always apply to spirit beings. There are many examples of where the word applies to human agents. The Greek word for angel is "aggelos" (ἄγγελος), and simply means messenger. Who were the messengers of God in the time of Israel in the wilderness which Jude was referred to in the previous verse? The messengers were the priests, and the Levites. When we turn to the record preserved in Numbers we find that indeed a section of the priesthood did rebel against the will of God. The rebellion was headed by Korah, Dathan and Abiram recorded in Numbers 16, who challenged the position of Moses and Aaron. Jude says they left their first estate or authority as it can be better translated, these men made light of the offices that they had been given. No, they wanted the top job. They already had collected a following, but they wanted to be rulers. They said to Moses you take too much upon yourselves seeing that all the congregation is holy. With much silver-tongued oratory, they persuaded the people. If being holy was a priority, why were they so unconcerned with breaking the laws that God had just given to them? As a result, again God sent a plague and 15000 died in the days of Korah. Moses said: Numbers 16: 29-30: "If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord."
So, what happened? The earth opened and swallowed them up, they plunged down into oblivion. Buried alive. Instant death, but everlasting death entombed. Reserved, that is until the time of Judgement, when they will be resurrected to face trial before all that they attempted to deceive. That is what Jude is talking about here in this verse. The just end for those who rebel and attempt to deceive others and turn people away from the truth. The next two example do not relate to the people of Israel but describe the rebellion of Gentiles. The first example in verse 7 of Sodom and Gomorrah, this example shows the depravity of sin, and the depths to which people will sink when they deny the existence of God, or that he is sovereign. The sexual perversions practiced in those cities destroyed the foundations of the family unit and structure that God had established from the beginning.
Of course, in this freewheeling libertarian world we live in where the very foundations and structure of society has been swept away with the banishment of the Bible, the cities and towns we live in are no better than Sodom and Gomorrah. What happened to the cities? Archaeology is testament to the accuracy of the Bible record. They disappeared in a vortex of fire and sulphur, destroyed utterly. Burned up Jude says "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire", this is not the supposed idea of hell of fires that burn forever, but the Greek actually can be better rendered retributive justice. Its effect has been eternal. We are still talking about it. Of course, the prescience of Jude’s words, the examples given of the stunning, complete and utterly destructive punishments meted out on the perpetrators of these rebellions were not lost on the believers, for exactly the same was just about to befall the inhabitants of Jerusalem as they rebelled against God, and against the Romans, and thought they could change what God had predetermined. They were to learn that salvation is not unconditional, nor is God’s mercy limitless.
Jude describes these rebels in Jude 8: "...filthy dreamers, defile the flesh and despise dominions". Filthy, the word 'filthy' is not in the original. Emphasis should be on dreamers. It is true that those who lead others astray in religion always claim a new revelation. They claim that God has spoken to them specially. Take Joseph Smith of the Mormons, or the Pope, or even Mohammed in the 6th century. Claiming additional revelations to what the Bible has concluded is blasphemy. For note takers, see Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18.
Jude moves onto a fourth example. He refers to Michael the archangel. Some assume this to be some obscure unrecorded conversation of the head angel with God, and it is thus difficult to know what Jude is referring to. But Jews familiar with their history would have known straightaway. Because Michael is not just a name, it is a title and literally means 'Like unto God'. The archangel means chief angel, or chief messenger. Who in the history of Israel was placed to be the chief messenger, and administer on behalf of God? Of course, the Jews would have known. It was the divinely instituted office of the High Priest. The man Jude is referring to is the High priest called Joshua. He is quoting Zechariah 3:1-2, where the high priest stood against the rebels of the day, who were doing their utmost to stop the house of God, and the walls of Jerusalem from being rebuilt and said the Lord rebuke thee. These Gentile Samaritans were bitterly opposed to the reestablishment of the Jewish state. They were setting themselves directly against the will of God, and were being Satan’s, adversaries. Instead of going on the offensive and fighting back, the faithful high priest rested assured that the rebuke of God would swiftly follow.
So, in this case, Jude’s illustrations and examples not only showed the damage heretics could bring, and the justice God always brings upon those who rebel against him, but also the faithful patience of those who have to endure the assault against the truth. From verse 10, Jude turns from showing the inevitable doom which will befall false teachers and uses examples to show the characteristics that the believers should look out for and beware of: "But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and perished in the gainsaying of Core." Jude makes a good point here. So often false teachings, and are based on natural thinking, reasoning from the standpoint of the flesh. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 2:14: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Jude uses the example of Cain to show natural thinking in action: "Woe unto them they have gone in the way of Cain." What was this way? Genesis 4 reveals that he showed a lack of faith and perception in the spiritual. He became jealous of the favour shown to his brother and coveted after the respect given. Despite this he was spoken to and given advice and help to overcome this natural reaction. Just like we all do. However, he allowed pride to prevent him from changing direction, and his jealousy became unchecked and grew into anger, rage, and a hatred, which led to murder. This is the way of Cain. Sin unchecked knows no bounds. Thus, God’s mercy cannot be limitless. He cannot always forgive if there is no repentance. He hates sin, and it must be stopped.
Jude mentions Balaam, and how those to whom he writes could see that the false teachers were running greedily after the error of Balaam, who saw the glint of money, the lust for riches overcame him, and he circumvented the will of God, by seducing the men of Israel, into immoral relationships with the Moabite women, the lengths so called religious leaders will go to get power. Jude really wants to make sure his readers understand the danger. He describes these as spots in your feasts of love, spots should read hidden rocks. Like hidden reefs under a lovely blue ocean that suddenly can make shipwreck, like a smiling assassin, clouds without water, verse 12, have a promise of refreshment, look like potential, but do not fulfil expectation, except block out the sun, just a waste of time, carried around by winds, moving with whatever circumstance presents, no direction or cause. Jude describes them like fruit trees in the autumn, but which have no fruit, again all show of leaves, but no potential realised, just what we would say today as a waste of space. Jesus spoke of such a fig tree and ordered it to be cut down because it was using precious space up, but he was referring to the Jewish nation, of course.
Raging waves of the sea says Jude foaming out their own shame. We recall how Isaiah speaks of the angry nations like the sea casting up mire and dirt, in Isaiah 57:20: "...which cannot rest, throwing wrecking and rubbish on the beach, huge roaring waves, all noise and show, all that is left is the foam, which blows away in the wind. This is the conceit of man, which puffs up, which has no use, but defiles and corrupts." Isaiah 57:13: "Wandering stars to which is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." This is what false religion is really all about. Instead of being content with being a sheep, and following the shepherd, people want to be a star, to be praised and exalted. It is the disease of today, the sole ambition of school kids, I want to be famous. How many reality shows or TV programmes are built around making stars? It is idolatry. Wandering stars refers to the meteors which flash across the sky, attracting all the attention, but after a split second, gone. A fading memory to be no more. The natural demise of the natural mind.
These six metaphors that Jude uses all encapsulate the work and doctrine of false teachers but are the main characteristics of the natural man, unrestrained by the Word of God, and left to his own devices. Jude then quotes faithful Enoch, the seventh of Adam to demonstrate the inevitable end of these apostates. Enoch is spoken of in the letter to the Hebrews 11: 5: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him:" Why? Because he pleased God. People claim today that Jude was quoting from the book of Enoch, a book included in the Apocrypha a collection of historical letters and books that bear some relation to the Bible but have no authority and are not divinely inspired and are not part of the Bible. Jude would not have quoted from this at all, but as he himself was Divinely inspired was either speaking from revelation, or from certain other books and parchments which were not preserved. But Jude wanted to speak of Enoch, because he also lived in the days preceding a great calamity, a time of materialism and immorality, when men were dedicated to pleasure profit and power.
Enoch was a great prophet. He named his son Methuselah, which means, when he dies it shall be sent. Within a year of Methuselah’s death, the flood came and carried them all away. But Enoch looked beyond to the Kingdom of God, when the Lord would come with myriads of saints, those sanctified, separated set apart, called out, to execute judgment upon all. Especially those deceiving and being deceived, claiming men are free to do what they want when they want, because God forgives all. No. God is a God of Justice. He hates sin, it has to be stopped. The times we live in now, are similar to the times of Enoch, similar to the times of Jude. Jude refers them to the words of Peter and Paul, as we have already reminded you in Jude 17, how that in the last time there would be mockers. But seeing all these great adversaries, and the difficulties, facing those who would keep the truth, and follow the Lord faithfully, how to deal with such things. Jude commenced his epistle by urging believers to contend earnestly for the faith. But how, in the face of all this? He explains in Jude 20: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Keep yourselves, guard yourselves, in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
Look for the mercy, pray for it, it isn’t automatic and unconditional. Forewarned is forearmed. You know that false religion is everywhere, empty promises, false hopes, how to contend earnestly, by building up yourselves in the most holy faith. This is exactly what we are doing now. It is why we have lectures, even though no one comes, why we persist in deep research, getting below the surface, digging, and searching, checking that what we believe is true. Being humble and when we get wrong ideas, having the humility to change. For steps then, building up, praying in the spirit, or in accordance with the will of God, keeping yourselves, looking for the mercy, these steps fortify and strengthen each one to be equipped to survive the onslaught of the enemies of the truth.
Jude then exhorts, of some he says, have compassion… even false teachers can receive the mercy of God, if they humble themselves as we have just said, all sins can be forgiven if they are acknowledges and repented of, so discretion must be exercised, as we have received mercy, so we should show mercy, and if there is an opportunity to convert someone who has been led astray, every effort should be made, for those who are in doubt, or struggling with their faith, whilst those who are hardened or arrogantly stubborn, they have to be left to their own devices. But in reaching out to those who are doubting exercise great care, others save with fear says Jude in verse 23, be fearful, lest we be adversely affected, and look to ourselves lest our garment also becomes spotted.
Jude concludes his urgent missive: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." In spite of all the dangers and pitfalls which are so evident highlighted in this letter, the faith can be earnestly contended for, we can be kept, preserved, guarded, if we depend entirely, placing our trust upon the Almighty God, it is he who can prevent us from falling, if we read the word, if we try to understand it, and if we do it, if we pray, for forgiveness when we fail, with a repentant heart, we can be faultless, before the presence of his glory at that time of Judgment which will most surely come; Majesty, dominion and power will be God’s and his alone, when Jesus returns to establish the Kingdom on this earth, and those who are judged faultless will share in that dominion. This is the faith worth contending for. All else is like that dirty foam on the beach after a storm to be blown away by the wind. Let us now then heed the words of Jude and take them to heart before it is too late.
Terry Hilsden | 16th February 2020