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As we approach what many see as a rather strange and slightly incomprehensible letter, we do well to remind ourselves of the important questions that were being raised to which Jude provides an answer. For these were as follows:
To all these questions Jude provides the Christian answer.
1.1 ‘Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called ones, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.’
Jude writes as a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. A similar approach is found in James’ letter, where James describes himself as ‘a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
This would suggest that it was not from one of ‘the twelve’, otherwise we would have expected him to mention his Apostleship (see also 1.17 which supports this suggestion that he is not one of the twelve), and his use of the name James, in such a way as to indicate that he was such a recognisable figure that no further appellation need be given, points to James of Jerusalem, the brother of our Lord (Galatians 1.19).
In view of this, and in view of the fact that the letter was recognised as Scripture almost from the beginning (it is mentioned in the Muratorian canon and by Tertullian), it would appear to suggest that it was written by Jude, the Lord’s brother, who was accepted as having Apostolic status along with James (1 Corinthians 9.5). One of Jesus’ other brothers was certainly called Jude (Judas - Mark 6.3), and it would seem unquestionable that it was because the later church did accept these identifications as genuine that their letters were accepted as part of the New Testament. There is no good reason for doubting that he was Joseph’s son through Mary (Matthew 13.55; Mark 6.3).
That he does not in fact claim the title ‘brother of our Lord’ would support this last idea. Had the relationship merely have been one of cousinship the relationship could have been claimed in view of the general recognition of them by the designation ‘the Lord’s brothers’ 1 Corinthians 9.5), just as in the end we are all called ‘His brothers’ (Hebrews 2.11-12). But the recognition of Who Jesus really was meant that none of Jesus’ real brothers of the half-blood felt it right to claim kinship. They recognised that He was not born of Joseph, and was therefore only their half-brother, and that even then He was more than a brother. He was their Lord. Others could call them ‘brothers of the Lord’. They would not claim it for themselves, for they reverenced Him too greatly.
(We should perhaps note that James and John, for example, were probably cousins of our Lord - John 19.25 with Matthew 27.56 - although they are never described as related to the Lord. So we are probably to take ‘brothers of the Lord’ literally. They were sons of Mary).
The title ‘servant’ is both a humble and an honourable one. Moses and Joshua were given the revered title, ‘the Servant of the LORD’ (see e.g. Joshua 1.2, 13; 24.29). The Psalmist could speak of ‘Abraham His servant’ (Psalm 105.6). And we have ‘David my servant’ in Isaiah 37.35. And supremely above all we have the great Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42.1-4; 49.1-6; 52.13-53.12).
Nevertheless their greatness in all cases lay in their total obedience to God, and it was Jesus Himself Who commanded that those who followed Him had, like Him, to be true servants, taking the lowliest place (Mark 10.42-45). Thus the title is one of humility, not of pride.
Note the threefold description of the addressees. They are described as ‘called ones’, ‘beloved’ and ‘kept’. This pattern of threefoldness occurs throughout the letter.
‘Called ones.’ Firstly they are ‘called ones’, that is, called by God. Such a ‘call’ is within the eternal purposes of God and results in the person involved being accounted righteous by God (Romans 8.29). It is certain and irrevocable for it results from His foreknowledge (Romans 8.29; compare 11.29). It is ‘according to His own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’ (2 Timothy 1.9). Compare also 2 Peter 1.3 where we are ‘called by His (Jesus Christ’s) own glory and excellence’.
This calling is an upward calling. It calls us to seek all things in Christ. ‘I press on towards the goal, towards the prize of the high/upward calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Philippians 3.14). As a result we are ‘partakers of a heavenly calling’ (Hebrews 3.1) and are therefore to set our eyes on Him Who is the Apostle and High priest of our confession, even Jesus (Hebrews 3.1). Christ is seated in heavenly places and we are called to share His throne with Him (Ephesians 1.19-2.6). And it is a calling in respect of which we are required to prove worthy (Ephesians 4.1; 2 Thessalonians 1.11).
‘Beloved in God the Father.’ Compare Romans 1.7. The idea of being beloved parallels the idea of being chosen. Consider how in Matthew, citing Isaiah 42, the Servant is described as, ‘Behold My Servant Whom I have chosen, My beloved (Isaiah 42.1 - ‘elect one’) in Whom my soul delights’ (Matthew 12.18-21). Thus they are chosen and beloved. And unusually this is described as ‘in God the Father’ (elsewhere it is ‘in Christ’). For God the Father is also God our Saviour (1.25; Luke 1.47; 1 Timothy 1.1; 2.3; 4.10 etc.).
John expands on the idea of God’s love for us when he declares, ‘in this was the love of God manifested in us, that God has sent His only true-born Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4.9-10). Thus we are beloved of God because our sin has been expiated through His cross.
‘Kept for Jesus Christ.’ Being ‘called’ and ‘beloved’ we are ‘preserved’ for Jesus Christ. Compare here 1 Peter 1.5, ‘kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time’. The idea is that we are safely held in the Father’s hand (John 10.29).
The ideas overall parallel those in John 10.27-28. ‘My sheep hear My voice (called) and I know them (beloved) and they follow Me, and I give to them eternal life, and they will never perish (kept) and none shall pluck them from My hand (twice kept) --- for none is able to pluck them from My Father’s hand (thrice kept)’.
1.2 ‘Mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied.’
The threefold description of their state (called, beloved and kept) is followed by a threefold prayer for mercy, peace and love to be multiplied to them. This idea of the multiplication of God’s blessings is found also in 1 Peter 1.2; 2 Peter 1.2.
‘Mercy.’ Jude stresses the mercy of God. Here God’s mercy is seen as ‘multiplied’ towards us. God does not just give, He multiplies His giving. It is only because of His continuing mercy that we can continually be forgiven and can walk with Him. And this mercy reaches out into the future for we are told in 1.21 to ‘look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life’. And in 1.22-23 he will stress that in return God’s people must continually show mercy towards those who are going astray, by seeking to win them back from the position into which they are falling. But the mercy being described here in verse 2 is a present continuing mercy, and it is from God.
Mercy is the continual need of the people of God, for we are an awkward and rebellious people, and are ourselves often so unmerciful. But the Scriptures tell us that we have received mercy (Titus 3.5; 1 Peter 1.3), and continually receive it as it multiplied towards us, and so we must show mercy (1.22-23), for it is the merciful who will finally enjoy mercy (1.21; Matthew 5.7).
‘Peace.’ Peace is ever central to the Christian message. Having obtained peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by being accounted righteous by faith (Romans 5.1), we can continually experience His peace, ‘peace from God’, in our hearts, the peace which passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and thoughts sin Christ Jesus (Philippians 4.7). And thus we can be at peace one with another (Ephesians 2.14-18).
‘Love.’ Mercy and peace result from God’s abundant and multiplied love, and are to produce love within us. So Jude emphasises His love for us. And that is why we are to keep ourselves in the love of God and thus we shall enjoy the full experience of His mercy (1.21).
Jude’s Reason For Writing (1.3-4).
Jude had seemingly intended to write a letter dealing with the question of ‘our common salvation’, but apparently he had received news about the evil behaviour of people who had come into the church surreptitiously, and were justifying lives of lasciviousness and sexual freedom, and seeing Jesus as but one of many ‘saviours’ through whom they could come to God (‘They deny our ONLY Master and Lord’ (1.4); compare also ‘To the ONLY God our Saviour’ (1.25)) .
1.3 ‘Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write to you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’
‘Beloved.’ A common address also used by Peter, John and Paul, etc. Love was at the centre of their Gospel, and the church’s teachers came to them with hearts filled with love.
Note his stress on the fact that he had been diligently setting out to write to them about the glorious truths of the Gospel. They are thus people towards whom he feels a pastoral responsibility, and who were presumably expecting to hear from him. But as a result of news that he has clearly recently received, he now feels that he must exhort them to fearlessly defend the true Gospel, that body of truth which had once for all been delivered to God’s people (His saints - compare Romans 1.7; 1 Corinthians 1.2).
‘Our common salvation.’ This would seem to emphasise that he was writing to both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Compare Ephesians 2.11-22. Alternately it may simply be seeing all genuine Christians as one together.
‘To contend earnestly for the faith.’ This may refer to a body of doctrine seen as ‘the faith’, possibly the ‘Testimony of Jesus’ (see 2 Timothy 1.8; Revelation 1.2, 9) made up of the reminiscences of the Apostles about the life and teaching of Jesus, and including the inspired ideas based on them as found in Apostolic communications from such as Paul (2 Peter 3.15-16), James and Peter. Or it may signify simply that they were to contend for the necessity for belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour (verse 4; compare Acts 4.12). But either way it clear that it was being denied by these ‘godless men’ who had come in among them.
While we cannot be sure what the false beliefs of these godless men were we do have certain hints;
1.4 ‘For there are certain men crept in surreptitiously, even they who were of old written of beforehand to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’
Note the suggested insidiousness of their movements. They did not come in openly as those who professed to have a different Gospel, but tried to present their ideas as being the same as the genuine Gospel. But God’s people should recognise that this was simply what had been prophesied of old, that there would be men who turned the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1.25). ‘They say, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace.’ (Jeremiah 6.14; 8.11). Indeed he will go on to demonstrate how the Scriptures have already condemned them.
They are guilty of two things. Firstly they turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. They make God’s free grace a grounds for sinful behaviour. Many do that today when they say, ‘You can have Jesus as your Saviour, without having Him as your Lord’. That is making a mockery of the grace of God. Not all may go as far as these men did, but the principle is the same.
Secondly they ‘deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’. The ‘only’ indicates that they did this by making Him only one among a number. It is not that they totally rejected Him. It was more subtle. They degraded Him by refusing to see Him as their only Lord and their only Master. And it is probable also that, as with those described in 2 Peter, they denied His earthly coming in the flesh, and His second coming in the flesh, seeing Him simply as a spirit being.
Any who introduce intermediaries between ourselves and God other than our One Mediator Jesus Christ are guilty of this heresy. It is a grave danger for Roman Catholics when they allow Mary and the saints to be intermediaries. It is not long before subconsciously they are relying on them for salvation. And the same danger is inherent in what is called Christian spiritism. For the truth is that there is only one God, and only one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2.5). None others are necessary.
On the other hand those who fail to see that God became truly man in Christ Jesus are also equally guilty of this heresy. For the fact that true God became true man is central to the Gospel.
Three Examples Of How God Has Dealt In The Past With Those Who Behaved In A Similar Way.
Jude now selects three incidents from the Old Testament which demonstrate what happened to people who were guilty of similar sins. They are especially interesting as they cover the whole of mankind together with heavenly beings. The first concerns the people of the Law, representing the Jews. The second concerns heavenly beings. The third concerns the people outside the Law, the equivalent of Gentiles. The first is an example of open disobedience and unwillingness to depend only on God, even though they have seen His power to save. The second is an example of where ‘angelic beings’ deserted their own sphere to intermingle with another sphere, thus corrupting both themselves and those with whom they intermingled. And the third is the incident where the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah and their surrounding towns had sunk into gross indecency, and even tried to become involved with angels in their evil acts. The first incident ended in destruction. The second ended in their being kept in everlasting bonds until the final Day of Judgment. The third resulted in their suffering ‘eternal fire’, a fire that had eternal consequences from which there was no recovery. Thus in each case the punishment was final.
1.5 ‘Now I desire to put you in remembrance, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who believed not.’
His first example is of an Israel who had been ‘saved’ out of the land of Egypt. He wants them to remember what happened to those people who had supposedly been saved out of Egypt. Apart from a few they had refused to believe.
The only incident in Exodus to Deuteronomy which speaks of the people ‘not believing’ is when they were faced up to entry into Canaan and refused to go forward. See Numbers 14.11; Deuteronomy 1.32; 9.23. They had left Egypt ‘believing’ (Exodus 14.31), but on their refusing to advance on Canaan God declared, ‘how long will they not believe in Me?’ Furthermore in Deuteronomy 9.23 Moses declares, ‘when the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you”, then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you believed Him not nor listened to His voice’. And the same is true in Deuteronomy 1.32 in context. So this is the great incident of specific and stated unbelief in the life of Israel.
And what was the result? That God swore that apart from Moses, Caleb and Joshua (who had believed) every adult from twenty years old and upwards (Numbers 14.29) who were involved in the unbelief would die in the wilderness. And that was what happened. They died to the last man (Deuteronomy 2.16). ‘He destroyed those who believed not’.
The lesson is clear, that, whatever the claims about having ‘been saved’, without a true belief that responds to God Himself, a God active to save, the God of the Old Testament as well as the New, all who do not believe will perish.
1.6 ‘And angels who kept not their own original status (or ‘principle rank’), but left their proper habitation, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.’
The second incident involves the angels who sinned in the times of Noah. ‘The sons of God (or ‘of the elohim’) saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and took for themselves wives of whom they chose.’ In other words those angels left their proper sphere and sought to possess mankind. They deserted their true habitation and environment. They left behind the heavenlies and their heavenly status and dignity, and came to earth to mingle with men. And this intermingling of the heavenly with the earthly was against God’s ordinance. They were blatantly disobeying God.
‘Who kept not their own ‘principle rank’ (or ‘original status and position’).’ The word originally meant, ‘beginning, commencement’. And then it came to mean what surpasses other things, that which is ‘first’ in point of rank and honour, or pre-eminence. That which has priority and precedence, due to superiority, e.g. a princedom. Here it refers to the rank, dignity and status which the angels had had in heaven.
(We need not see Genesis 6.1-2 as necessarily indicating that angels actually cohabited with women. The way in which they ‘took them as wives’ was probably by demon intercourse and by demon possession of the men with whom the women cohabited. It was this wholesale invasion of mankind by demons, which were gladly received by men and women, that caused God to determine to destroy mankind at that time. It was not just ‘ordinary’ sin. It was sin of the deepest kind. Mankind’s current and growing obsession with the occult will no doubt again produce a similar judgement).
This sin of intermingling the heavenly and the earthly (although in reverse order) was precisely what these godless people that Jude was talking about were trying to do. They were trying to mix the earthly with the heavenly and leave their proper sphere by renouncing the body of flesh as irredeemable, and seeking to attain life as spirit beings by occult means. They were like many sects, who try to reach out into the spirit world. Furthermore we indulge in similar sins today when we seek to become involved with the occult. And the danger with some modern literature is that it can make such things appear harmless. Indeed some Christians see such literature as Satan’s way of preparing the way for the future.
And what happened to the angels who behaved in this way? He kept them in everlasting bonds under darkness to await their final judgment. And the same will apply to these godless men. They too will face the final Judgment.
Note On The Angels Who Sinned.
Some cavil at this interpretation and see this as referring to angels who sinned before the creation of man. But there is in fact no Scriptural evidence that any angels, apart from Satan, did fall before the creation of man. No indication of date is ever given to the few accounts of when the angels fell.
On the other hand we do have grounds in the very literature which Jude will later cite (the book of Enoch), for the idea that the first angelic fall took place in the days of Noah. Thus in the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) we have the following description of the fall of these angels, who are called the Watchers, because they were watching over mankind:
“And it came about, when the children of men had multiplied, that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children (6.1-3) --- And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in to them and to defile themselves with them (7.1). ---And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness (10.4) --- bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they will be confined for ever. And whoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. (10.12-15) --- And then will the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and will all be planted with trees and be full of blessing (10.18-19) --- . 'Enoch, you scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken to themselves wives: "You have wrought great destruction on the earth, and you will have no peace nor forgiveness of sin, and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and will make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall you not attain.” (12.4-6).
It will be noted that if we compare these words with Peter we have the ‘spirits in prison’ (1 Peter 3.19), the ‘committing to pits of darkness to be reserved to judgment’ (2 Peter 2.5) and ‘the new earth in which dwells righteousness’ (2 Peter 3.13), and in comparison with Jude here we have ‘the angels who left their first principality’ (they ‘left the high heaven, the eternal holy place’) and their resulting ‘everlasting bonds’ (Jude 1.6), and the fact that they dwelt in darkness. Furthermore in 1 Enoch 60.8 we have mention of ‘the seventh from Adam’ (Jude 1.14).
The same incidents are described more briefly in Jubilees 4.15; 5.1ff.; Testament of Reuben 5.6-7; Testament of Naphtali 3.5; 2 Enoch 18; etc.
We have selected a few extracts from the text, but the full text makes quite clear that we undoubtedly have reference here to the events described in Genesis 6.1-2.
This is confirmed in 2 Peter. There Peter selects three incidents in Scriptural order, the fall of the angels, the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. But the only fall of angels even hinted at in Scripture prior to the Flood, apart from that of Satan himself as hinted at in Genesis 3, is that found in Genesis 6.1-2.
End of note.
1.7 ‘Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.’
The third incident cited is the case of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities which had sunk into deep sin, corruption, lasciviousness and illicit sex. This had caused God to send angels to inspect them, and resulted in an attempt by the men of Sodom to rape the angels (to ‘go after strange flesh’).
Here was an example of lasciviousness and illicit sex, and a further attempt to break down the barrier between the heavenly and the earthly by the rape of angels. Alternately ‘strange/other flesh’ may signify ‘that which was not usual’ and may therefore indicate ‘man with man doing what is unseemly’ (Romans 1.27).
And what was the consequence? The result was that they were made an example of, and suffered the punishment of eternal fire. The idea behind the phrase ‘eternal fire’ might be that it was fire from heaven (the eternal regions), or it may refer to its everlasting consequences, or it may refer to both. Jude also no doubt expects his readers to consider the eternal fire yet to come (Mark 9.43-48; Matthew 25.41; Revelation 19.20; 20.10, 14).
So these three incidents make clear the consequence of unbelief:
All such sins bring men into destruction and judgment.
We should note in the present day that this has in mind belief in numerous intermediaries in relation to God, ‘modern’ attitudes to illicit sex (which are simply a repetition of the ancient sins) and modern attempts to become involved with the occult in whatever way it is done, whether by mediums, ouija boards, tarot cards, crystal balls, or whatever. All are equally condemned.
A Further Indication Of The Heresy In Which The Godless Men Were Involved (1.8-10).
Jude now describes in a threefold way the folly of the ‘ungodly persons’, and points out that their attitude conflicts with the known realities. They defile themselves by sin, they set God (or the Devil) at nought, and they speak contrary to things that even angels do not dare to get involved with.
He then cites an example from the apocalyptic work the Assumption of Moses, (but without citing it as Scripture), in order to demonstrate how careful even Michael the Archangel was in dealing with the Devil. We can compare how Paul similarly cites heathen philosophers in the same way without accepting all that they teach (Acts 17.23, 28). He gleans the truth out of them.
1.8 ‘Yet in a similar way these also in their dreamings defile the flesh, and set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities.’
Note his reference to their ‘dreamings’. This may simply be indicating their folly in the same way as we say, ‘dream on’. Or it may have in mind the taking of drugs in order to produce a sensual and ecstatic state. Or it may refer to claims that they made to have special dreams, citing Joel 2.28; Acts 1.17. The point is that he is emphasising that their ideas are unreal. Whichever it is it causes them to:
This brings out their whole attitude of mind. Because they see themselves as on a high spiritual plain they see everything else as beneath them, and treat everything accordingly.
1.9 ‘But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you”.’
But they are being very foolish, for if they would but remember it, even Michael the Archangel did not dare to rail at the Devil. Rather he said, “The Lord rebuke you.” He was aware of just how powerful the Devil was. They would do well therefore to take notice.
The illustration is taken from The Assumption of Moses, an apocalyptic work dealing with what happened to Moses’ body when he died, and the scene depicted is of Michael seeking to gain control of his body over against the Devil. But the point of the illustration is not to be found in the detail, but is in order to bring out the concern that even Michael the Archangel demonstrated when dealing with the Devil, so much so that he dared not stand against him alone but threw himself on the Lord’s power and might.
Note On Michael The Archangel.
Michael is one of only two angels who are named in Scripture. The other is Gabriel (Daniel 9.21; Luke 1.19, 26). Michael is cited in Daniel as being the angel whose responsibility it was to protect the interests of Israel (Daniel 10.13; 21; 12.1). He is described there as a ‘chief prince’ (Daniel 10.13). In Daniel 12.1 he is ‘the great prince’. This is the first point in Scripture where we learn of evil angels who can affect circumstances in the world and God’s purposes for the nations (Daniel 10.12-13, 20). But even so they are subject to God’s ordinances (for He forecasts how the nations will behave). Michael is also mentioned in Revelation 12.7 where he is depicted as commander-in-chief of God’s army of angels which was sent to preserve Israel and her seed, and there he causes the defeat and casting down of Satan.
The name Michael means ‘who is like God’ but it was a name shared with many others. We must not therefore read into it more than is warranted. There are no grounds for seeing him as being Jesus. He is a ministering spirit (Hebrews 1.14), not the Messiah.
End of note.
Note On The Assumption Of Moses.
The work in question is lost but has been built up from excerpts taken from early Christian writers who knew the Book. The important passage read as follows:
“Joshua accompanied Moses up Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the land of promise. Moses then sent Joshua back to the people to inform them of Moses’ death, and Moses died. God sent the Archangel Michael to remove the body of Moses to another place and bury it there, but Samma’el, the Devil, opposed him, disputing Moses’ right to honourable burial. --- The Devil brought against Moses a charge of murder because he smote the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. But this accusation was not better than slander against Moses, and Michael, not tolerating the slander, said to the Devil, “May the Lord rebuke you, Devil.” At that the Devil took flight and Michael removed the body to the place commanded by God, where he buried it with his own hands. Thus no one saw the burial of Moses.”
With regard to this we should note that the statement, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan” is found on the lips of the LORD in Zechariah 3.2. It is thus a Scriptural phrase indicating how Satan is to be dealt with. Furthermore Jude’s point here is not that we need to accept the whole story but only the salient points that were relevant, the points which he outlines.
Deuteronomy tells us that God buried Moses’ body (Deuteronomy 34.6), and there are no grounds for denying that He used angels for the purpose. Indeed we might have expected it. We can compare how Jesus said that the angels bore Lazarus to Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16.22). And as Moses was the leader of Israel, Michael, as the chief angel who represented Israel, would naturally be suitable for the task, or at least, to be in charge of the ‘work-party’, thus giving Moses the honour that was his due. That Satan would want to interfere at such an important time is probable. He may well have foreseen that God had some future purpose for Moses, as found for example at the Transfiguration (Mark 9.4-5). So there is nothing intrinsically unlikely in the basic idea that he sought to interfere in the arrangements. The detail need not be pressed.
End of Note.
1.10 ‘But these rail at whatever things they know not, and what they understand naturally, like the creatures without reason, in these things are they destroyed.’
But these foolish people, unlike Michael, think that they can treat the Devil lightly, because really they are ignorant of what they are dealing with. For while they think that they are spiritually knowledgeable, in fact they are spiritually ignorant, and as regards these things are like irrational creatures. Thus they should beware, or they may find themselves ensnared by him.
There is a warning here for us. We may laugh at the occult, and enter on it lightly. We may mock at the thought that ouija boards and tarot cards and similar things can be harmful. But by lightheartedly indulging in them we can be leaving a way open for evil spirits. And when they do enter the result can be devastating. The Devil loves nothing better than to be laughed at when he sees that it leaves him with an opening.
But Their Pathway Leads To Woe (1.11).
Jude now calls God’s ‘woe’ (compare Luke 6.24-26; Matthew 23.13-36; Isaiah 5.8-24) down on the ungodly persons and introduces three illustrations which he applies directly to them, describing the way that they were taking. This is in the form of a progression. First ‘the (wrong) way’. Then ‘the (more permanent) error’. Then the (final) ‘rebellion.’ The level of their sin and their opposition to God gradually grows. There is also a progression in their action. First they ‘go’ (in what they see as the way of freedom), then they ‘run riotously’ (enjoying, as they think, riotous freedom), and then they ‘perish’ (their freedom is gone). Their seeming increase in freedom thus leads to disaster. Let all then take heed.
Note how he uses the past tense indicating that their doom has already been determined in their association with their namesakes.
1.11 ‘Woe to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.’
Jude pronounces a woe on them, because their way leads to disaster, as is demonstrated by what happened to their anti-types:
It will be noted how perfectly the anti-types fit those godless persons. Like Cain they have rebelled against God’s ways and are already marked as under God’s judgment. Like Balaam they have thought that they could manipulate God, they were greedy for money, and they are now learning their folly. Like Korah they think that they can rise above their station, but it will only result in their perishing. These are all sins that men commit today. And their end will be the same.
His Vivid Description Of Their Spiritual Bankruptcy (1.12-16).
Jude now vividly pictures their spiritual bankruptcy by means of vivid metaphors, and cites a well known prophecy from the Book of Enoch demonstrating the judgment that is coming on them. It should be noted, however, that he does not use any specific formula which would suggest that he saw the Book as Scripture. We can compare John 11.51 which demonstrates that any saying from an important religious person that contained truth could be seen as having been ‘prophesied’. Compare also Zacharias in Luke in 1.67, although there it is connected directly with the Holy Spirit. Jude lived in the days when there were Christian and other prophets whose sayings were not all seen as Scripture, (they had to be ‘judged’), but could be cited when they could be seen as true to Scripture. Thus he simply parallels ‘Enoch’ in a general way with these prophets, and selects out of his writings what is Scripturally true.
1.12-13 ‘These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you; shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved for ever.’
Jude now vividly describes what these godless persons really are. They are sham imitations of the real thing, fruitless and very often dangerous to those who heed them.
‘These are they who are hidden reefs (‘dangerous objects’ or ‘spots’) in your love-feasts when they feast with you.’ Creeping into the love feasts, which were feasts provide by the better off Christians so that all, including slaves, could enjoy food and fellowship together in love, in order to eat their fill, they cause others to be shipwrecked because of their false ideas, encouraging excess and constantly spoiling what should be so joyous an occasion. (Compare 1 Corinthians 11.21-22). Claiming to be a safe landing place, they turn out to be hidden reefs. We all need to beware of such people. They are like Satan presenting himself as an angel of light (compare 2 Corinthians 11.13-14). We have to test them against the Scriptures.
‘Shepherds who without fear feed themselves.’ They claim to be shepherds concerned with feeding the flock (see 1 Peter 5.2), but in reality they are only interested in benefiting themselves, and they do it openly and callously at the love feasts. Compare also Ezekiel 34.2.
‘Clouds without water, carried along by winds.’ They give every promise of spiritual rain and fruitfulness, seeming to offer life and blessing, but like clouds carried by the wind, simply produce disappointment and fail to produce the necessary blessing.
‘Autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.’ They give a good show of being fruitful like the fig tree that withered at Jesus’ word (Matthew 21.19), but underneath like that fig tree they are dead. So they are then plucked up and wither away, thus becoming twice dead. Compare the fruitless branches of the vine in John 15.1-6 which, proving themselves to be dead, were cut off because they produced no fruit. Thus those who receive their teaching will be doubly dead. They will suffer both the first and second death (Romans 6.23; Revelation 20.14)
For the idea of being rooted up as symbolising divine judgment see Psalm 52.5; Proverbs 2.22; Jeremiah 1.10; Matthew 3.10.
‘Wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame.’ Wild and out of control their shameful ideas can be seen as like foam on a raging sea. They are all froth and bubble, quickly arising, and soon disappearing, and ending up as nothing. Compare also Isaiah 57.20, ‘the wicked are like the raging sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and dirt’.
‘Wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved for ever.’ The idea here may be of the planets whose movements cannot be relied on to indicate the right way. And their destiny is seen as being to fade and finally disappear into everlasting and total darkness. So in the same way these godless persons profess to act as guides, but are simply leading others astray. And their destiny is everlasting darkness (Matthew 8.12; 22.13).
1.14-15 ‘And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have wrought in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’
Jude now cites a passage from 1 Enoch which appears to him very apt, while interpreting it to suit his purpose. ‘The seventh from Adam’ is the way that Enoch is described in the book (1 Enoch 60.8). The fact that Enoch is said to ‘prophesy’ need only indicate that he sees that these particular words are to be seen as reliable, for elsewhere we learn that God can bring such true prophecy from strange sources. Compare John 11.51 where the High Priest was hardly to be seen as a normal inspired source. It was simply some particular words that were seen as ‘inspired’. Jude was also very familiar with Christian prophets whose words had to be judged for their truth and accuracy (1 Corinthians 14.29). They were not treated as having the accuracy of Scripture, but could be cited if they were true and relevant. So there are no grounds for suggesting that he necessarily saw 1 Enoch as Scripture. He just recognised the particular excerpt as ‘inspired’.
The quotation describes the Lord’s coming, along with the heavenly hosts, in order to execute judgment on all, and especially the ungodly. The quotation must have seemed very apt to him because of its emphasis on ungodliness in the light of judgment. And he knew that it accorded with words of Jesus (Matthew 16.27; 24.30-31; 25.31). Note that ungodliness is continually stressed by Enoch. ‘To convict all the ungodly of their works of ungodliness, which they have wrought in an ungodly way, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoke against Him.’ In Jude’s eyes this aptly fitted these ungodly persons. All that they did, even any good works that they performed, were in the end ungodly, because of their motives and attitudes.
‘To execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly ---.’ He has come to pass sentence on the ungodly as the One Who has been appointed as the Judge of all men (John 5.22, 27; Matthew 13.41-43; 25.31-46; Revelation 14.14-20; 20.11-15). For ‘all their works of ungodliness’ compare Revelation 20.12-13.
And so these ungodly people will finally get their deserts, and will be forced to admit that they had been in the wrong. Note the irony of the fact that The One Whom they had diminished, and the angels against whom they had railed, will be the final arbiters of their judgment.
1.16 ‘These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their lusts (and their mouth speaks great swelling words), showing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.’
He closes off the passage with another list of their failings. They are murmerers and complainers, they follow eagerly their own lusts and desires, their mouths speak great swelling words, and their behaviour towards people depends on what they think that they can get out of them. His words are descriptive of far too many so-called Christians today.
‘Murmurers.’ The word used here is not found elsewhere in the New Testament but the idea occurs constantly. See for example Matthew 20.11; Luke 5.30; John 6.41, 43, 61; 8.32; 1 Corinthians 10.10, and compare John 7.12; Acts 6.1; Philippians 2.14; 1 Peter 4.9. The sense is that of repining or complaining at what God ordains, or finding fault with God’s plans, and purposes, and doings. Murmurers are never happy with things because they have no faith in God’s outworkings.
‘Complainers.’ Those who are always complaining at their own lot and are never satisfied. They are in total contrast to those who give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5.20; Philippians 4.6; Colossians 1.12; 4.2).
Having Exposed The Ungodly Jude Now Turns To The Godly And Seeks To Encourage Them And Give Them Guidance (1.17-21).
He first reminds God’s true people that what is happening is in full accord with the warnings given by the Apostles, that mockers would come who followed their own evil desires, who would cause division and lead people in sensuous ways, and then he tells them how they can combat such things by building up their knowledge of Christ, praying in the true Holy Spirit, keeping themselves in the love of God and looking off continually to the Lord, Jesus Christ for His mercy, which will result in eternal life.
1.17 ‘But you, beloved, remember you the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they said to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” ’
They need not be disturbed by these false and ungodly people who have come among them. Rather they should remember that the Apostles have continually warned them of such things, and that such warnings are on record. There is no indication in these words that the Apostles were necessarily dead, only that they were not currently present among those to whom he was writing. When we say, ‘Remember the words previously spoken by, say, Billy Graham’ we are not writing his obituary. Jude’s words here do, however, bring out how important the original Apostles were seen to be from the beginning. They were the final authority on everything for the early church.
Those who pay little heed to later tradition can tend to feel that apart from Paul and Peter the Apostles accomplished little. But that is to underrate them. The first few chapters of Acts actually reveal them as constantly active, even though the emphasis is on Peter as the spokesman in tough situations. And we have no reason to doubt that their activity continued. However they were not interested in establishing their place in history. They simply patiently went around spreading the Gospel. And they were not all accompanied by Luke. Writing was mainly not their forte.
The idea even of Apostleship was somewhat fluid. Jude clearly did not class himself as an Apostle, but that others saw him as an Apostolic man comes out in that his letter was accepted as Scripture from the beginning. The Lord’s own brothers, once they had been converted, were seen as having a special position (1 Corinthians 9.5). But they did not claim it for themselves.
And what the Apostles had warned was that “In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” We can compare for this such statements as Paul’s in Acts 20.29, ‘I know that after my leaving you grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock’. See also, ‘in later times some will fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils ---’ (1 Timothy 4.1). ‘In the last times grievous times will come, for men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, railers --- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Timothy 3.1-4). ‘Mockers’ are those who mock God by what they say and what they do. Thus to live a life following the ways of the flesh is to mock Him (Galatians 6.7-8). Compare Proverbs 14.9, ‘the foolish make a mock at guilt’. One of the things that these people especially mocked was that Jesus Christ had intervened in history and would personally come again to bring it to its culmination (2 Peter 3.4).
‘In the last time.’ That is in the period following the Messiah’s coming. It has now lasted for almost 2000 years. Compare 1 Corinthians 10.11; Hebrews 1.2; 9.26; 1 Peter 1.20; 4.7; 2 Peter 3.3 (speaking of the mockers in his own day); 1 John 2.18.
1.19 ‘These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit.’
And these people who thus mock God are causers of division and examples of sensual behaviour, who attract others into the same. They are wholly devoid of the Spirit, for whatever they appear to offer, it is not of God. This was in fact the very opposite of what they boasted.
We should in fact beware of any teaching that takes us away from the idea of Jesus Christ as crucified, raised, and exalted in His flesh (1 Corinthians 1.18; 2.2; Philippians 3.10). The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to Him (John 16.13-14), and our union with Him is to be seen as by our becoming one with Him in His spiritual body. It is through God made man that the Father has wrought His deliverance, One Who has been exalted as man. Thus we are saved through Him as we are, as men and women in the body. In the words of Paul He preserves spirit, soul and body for that Day (1 Thessalonians 5.23). We are not saved as souls or spirits but as people. So while we know Him through the Spirit we must not spiritualise Him away. All our thoughts are to be centred on Him as God made man, and mediator as such between God and man (1 Timothy 2.5).
1.20-21 ‘But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’
Jude now seeks to turn their minds from all the error and from all the distraction that he has been describing towards the triune God, Who alone is God. They are to pray in the Holy Spirit, keep themselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Compare for this combination of the three members of the Godhead together Matthew 28.19; 2 Corinthians 12.14; 1 Peter 1.2 .
Once again the term ‘beloved’ is a reminder of what is central to the Christian faith. ‘By this will all men know that you are my disciples if love one another’ (John 13.35).
And they are to ‘be building themselves up on their most holy faith.’ The necessity for the continual building up the body of Christ is constantly emphasised in the Apostolic letters, and the aim of it is so as to achieve a central oneness in Him as His church grows more and more like Him. They are being built into a holy Temple in the Lord. Compare 1 Corinthians 3.9-17; Ephesians 2.20-22; 4.12-13; Colossians 2.6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5.11; 1 Peter 2.5; 2 Peter 3:18.
And the building up is to be continual and it is ‘on their most holy faith’, in other words it is to be on the central teaching about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, having in mind especially Their work in bringing about the full and final salvation of the people of God to His glory.
Notice the contrast between these words and the divisions and the lust of the previous verse. The aim is not to be a dividing but a building up. It is not to be aiming at sensuality but to be aiming at holiness. It is not to be devoid of the Spirit but to be dependent on Him. And he then stresses how they are to do this.
How then do we pray in the Spirit? It is by being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5.16) as a result of our lives being open and transparent before God, with all our sin dealt with (1 John 1.7), so that we have become dead to ourselves in order that we might walk in newness of life (Romans 6.4). It is by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, which is our reasonable service, and not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewal of our minds in order that that we might prove that good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12.1-2), with the result that we continue instant in prayer (Romans 12.12). It is by walking step by step with the Spirit (Galatians 5.24) and praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17).
And the reason that we can pray in the Spirit is because ‘God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4.6). Nevertheless if we would pray in the Spirit our hearts must be forgiving, for if they are not neither will God forgive us (Matthew 6.14-25). And if we regard iniquity in our hearts the Lord will not hear us (Psalm 66.18).
The Attitude That Those Who Are Firm In Faith Should Take Towards The Waverers (1.22-23).
Jude now reminds them that while the building of themselves up is of prime concern, that should also lead to showing concern for those who appear to be falling short. It is, however, to be done with discrimination. Each person must be approached considering what their need might be. Some are merely doubters, standing on the edge of things, and need to be shown compassion and concern. Others are dithering and need to have some pressure put on them. Still others are well involved in sin and need to be made aware of their danger, while at the same time those who would help them must ‘consider themselves lest they also be tempted’ (Galatians 6.1) or be defiled in some other way.
1.22-23 ‘And on some have mercy, who are in doubt. And some save, snatching them out of the fire. And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.’
Alternately it may mean that they themselves, while seeking to have mercy on them and save them, should do it with careful concern lest in helping them they themselves might become defiled. For in the end we must never let our concern for others interfere with our own spiritual standing and state so that we compromise our own position (see for example 1 Corinthians 5.9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3.14-15). We must keep our own garments pure. Maintaining the glory of God and of Christ must always be our first concern.
The Final Assurance (1.24-25).
Jude closes his letter with an assurance to all true believers that they need not fear what the future may hold, because in the face of all that they are dealing with, the one and only God their Saviour is able to bring them through safely into His presence free from all blemish. For salvation is of the Lord.
1.24-25 ‘Now to him who is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen.’
In these magnificent words regularly cited throughout the world Jude assures his readers that their salvation is safe in the hands of God, the only Saviour. And this is because:
‘To guard them from stumbling’ - For like a shepherd He can protect them in all their ways and ensure by the use of His rod and staff that nothing can cause them to stumble and fall.
And Who is this Who can do all this for us? It is the One and only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our one and only Lord.
No wonder then that Jude prays ‘And so may there be to Him glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen.’
In other words God is everything, and does everything through His Son. He is thus the One to Whom all glory, all majesty, all dominion and all power have belonged, do now belong, and will for ever belong, from before all time, through the present, into the eternal future. It is God Who is all in all. And all this ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’. For Father and Son work together with the Holy Spirit in bringing home to Himself the heirs of salvation.
Here is Jude’s final answer to the godless persons. There is only one God, and there is only one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. All that the only and eternal God was, and is, and will be, is His ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’. So He also is all in all. In the words of John, ‘all that the Father has is Mine -- for I and My Father are One (in every way)’ (John 16.15; 10.30).
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