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Warning of Coming Judgment

“And Enoch, the seventh son from Adam, prophesied these things saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with his holy myriads with him to bring judgment against all, to convict all human life of all their works of impiety, which they did impiously, and concerning all the cruelty that impious sinners spoke against Him.  These are grumblers and complainers, walking according to their cravings and their mouths speaking boasts, flattering to gain advantage.”

(Jude 14-16)

 

This is the second time that Jude quotes from non-canonical literature.  Here he quotes from the Apocalypse of Enoch, pointing to the second coming of Christ with his angels to judge the wicked (if you want a picture of those myriads of angels take a peek at Revelation 5:11).  Do you notice a theme in this section?  Impious, impious, impious…   Sin is impious and sin brings death.  It is only by being born again in Jesus Christ that we can be saved from the wrath that is to come.  Woe, Woe, Woe.  Revelation also contains three woes (Revelation 8:13).  Three is a number of completion or fullness.  Here we find the fullness of the woes of sinful man.  These men have made full and complete their ungodliness and impiety and their judgment to come will be equally full and complete.

Make careful note of verse 15.  When Christ comes again, he will execute judgment against all mankind, not just the evil ones.  The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 20 that God will judge all mankind according to their works, and all whose names are not written on the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his minions.  No one can stand upon his own works, it simply cannot be done because of indwelling sin.  Only Jesus Christ has earned salvation by his works and he alone offers a way to paradise, being clothed in his righteousness.  That comes through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  There is no other way to avoid the punishment that we deserve.

The elect, those whose names are written on the Lamb’s book of life and were written there from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), are the ones who will escape judgment, but all else will face eternal damnation.  These, Jude reminds us again, are grumblers and complainers who chase after their own cravings.  The word that we translate as “cravings” is the Greek word e˙piqumi÷a (epithumia), which refers to cravings or lusts, more times than not, for things that are forbidden.  Also Jude points to judgment for the flatterers.  This is the word qauma¿zw (thaumazo) in Greek, which literally means “to marvel” or “to be amazed.”  This is not subtle flattery, but loud, boisterous flattery designed to inflate the ego of the listeners.

This is not to categorically state that all that are guilty of grumbling or flatterers are going to Hell, what it reflects is the idea that these things should not reflect the heart of the believer.  God forgives us when we stumble and repent of our sins, yet if we remain hardened and unrepentant, we will face eternal punishment.

All of Jude’s warnings can begin to weigh on you.  He warns you from the past, the present, and the future.  But there is a reason that we are given warnings—they often keep us from harming ourselves.  When I was in the Boy Scouts, I took Life-Saving Merit Badge.  A great deal of the badge dealt with water rescues.  But one of the things that the instructor impressed upon us was the value of preventive measures.  Those measures begin with clearly posted warning signs.  The letter of Jude is one of those signs.

Before we shift gears into Jude’s exhortation to the faithful of the church, I want to drive home the need to beware.  There are spiritual predators who seek to fill your pulpits and they will seek to guide you down a false path.  Watch closely through the eyes of scripture and prayer, not being impressed by flash or new ideas but holding true to the faith that was taught by the Apostles and handed down through the ages.

 

Warnings from Israel’s Past: Egypt (Idolatry)

“Now I want to remind you, though you have known all these things, that the Lord once saved a people from the land of Egypt and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

(Jude 5-7, ESV)

 

Within this section that offers warnings from the history of Israel, we find three sins that are being addressed:  Idolatry, Pride, and Sexual Perversion.  In the context of the letter of Jude, these sins are likely the sins that these false teachers have brought with them.  Jude wants the church of his day, and by extension, the church of all ages to understand just how dangerous these sins are and that God will not permit these sins to flourish in the life of his people.  These are sins of the world and Christians are not to be of the world.

These are also extraordinarily dangerous sins.  The medieval church developed what they called the “Seven Deadly Sins” which were wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lechery, envy, gluttony.  One pastor friend of mine argues that all sins stem from the sin of pride—as pride was at the heart of the first sin.  I would argue that Jude is laying out a trio of sins that God deals most harshly against.  There are certainly some sins that God is a bit more lenient towards when you read the ancient law, for example, but these three sins are sins against which God’s heaviest wrath is poured out.  And, I would suggest that the reason for this is two-fold.  First, these three sins will surely and rapidly take you out of fellowship with God.  Second, these sins produce other sins in a person’s life. 

Remember well the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 1.  The reality of God can be seen in his natural revelation—Creation itself—but people chose to chase after their own desires, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25).  Their punishment for their denial of God was to be left to their sin.  Sin destroys—it corrodes our souls.  But Paul emphasizes three sins in particular:  Idolatry (vs. 25), Sexual Perversion (vss. 26-27), and Pride (vs. 28).  These are the same three sins that Jude is bringing out, and from these three sins, flow all other sinful living (Romans 1:29-32).

The greatest problem that the Israelites had in their wilderness wanderings was Idolatry.  Over and over again, the people are contending with Moses about how things were so much better in Egypt.  They made the golden calf, and as they approached the promised land, they also engaged in idolatry with the pagans of the region.  Because of this, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years so that none of the original people who left Egypt would enter the Promised Land.  Many of these were even killed directly with sickness, war, or natural disaster.  Yet, even in the midst of such idolatry, God preserved a faithful remnant for himself.

We may be tempted to wonder about what God was doing, rescuing his people and then killing off those who were unfaithful.  Yet, what happened in the wilderness is a picture of what will happen in judgment.  There are many who have entered into fellowship with the visible church, but not all of these people are born again believers.  There will come a time when we will all stand before God’s throne of judgment and whether we are redeemed or condemned will have nothing to do with which membership card we held in life.  It will have everything to do with whether we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Anything that has captured our hearts other than Jesus—whether that be our money, our careers, our families, our accomplishments, etc…–this is idolatry.   And idolatry is not something that God tolerates in his body.

Jude’s Greeting

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, brother of James, to those who have been loved in God the father, and who have been guarded and called for Jesus Christ:  May mercy be to you and may peace and love be multiplied.”

(Jude 1-2)

 

As mentioned earlier, Jude identifies himself not as Jesus’ half-brother, but as Jesus’ servant and brother of James.  It is a clear reminder to us that we are to take a humble attitude when we approach leadership roles.  We are called to be servants, not masters and Jude’s attitude exemplifies just this mindset.  Jude also reminds us as we read this letter, that those of us who are called and elect are beloved to God and kept, not on our own strength but guarded by the power of God and held for Jesus.  There is a great eternal wedding that God has planned and He has called a people to himself—the church—to be the bride of his beloved son, Jesus.  What a blessing to be called beloved of God.  This is the name that God gave to Solomon (Jedidiah: see 2 Samuel 12: 25). 

The blessing is also interesting.  Not only does he pray for mercy, which is unusual (only 1 & 2 Timothy and 2 John contain mercy in their blessing), but it is the only epistle where mercy is listed first.  I think that it is an indication that there are serious problems in this church.  The people have clearly, based on the text, fallen astray, following these false teachers, they are in need of God’s mercy.

Note also that Jude’s blessing is for peace and love to be multiplied while mercy stands alone.  Though one may argue that all three of these items are connected, as many modern translations would lead you to believe, the Greek sets mercy apart from the other two blessings.  Perhaps this is because of the problems that are going on in this church.  One of the things that these false teachers are doing is to create disharmony within the fellowship and to pervert the people’s love feasts.  All sinners desperately need the mercy of God, yet, given the issues going on within this fellowship, they especially need God’s peace and love to shape their fellowship.

Introduction to Jude

Author:  Jude: the half-brother of Jesus.  Reference Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13: 55.  He is also the brother of James (the author of the epistle James, see Galatians 1:19 as well as Jude 1 for this connection).  These were two of the children that Mary and Joseph had by normal means.  We know little more than this about Jude other than the fact that Hippolytus (c. 170-232 AD) records that Jude preached in Greece and Macedonia, where he met his martyrdom (there is another tradition that Jude was martyred in Persia, which is in the area of modern day Iran/Iraq, but I have not been able to verify the origin of that tradition).

Why does Jude, which is short for Judas or Judah (Greek and Hebrew respectively), not refer to himself as Jesus’ half-brother?  Humility.  The brothers of Jesus did not become followers until after Jesus’ resurrection (we do not see them as part of the fold until Acts 1:14).  It is a reminder to us that no matter what our pedigree, we are to see ourselves as servants of Jesus Christ.

 

Date:  Little is known about Jude or the timing of the book, so we must be careful that we do not become too dogmatic about our position on this.   Usually a date in the late 60s is suggested.  The primary guide that we can work with is the second letter of Peter, which contains a remarkable number of parallel statements—so remarkable that it is almost impossible to see these letters as being connected.

While we don’t know much about the dating of Jude, we do have a fairly good idea about the dating of 2 Peter.  We know from the early church records that Peter was martyred during the reign of Nero.  Nero committed suicide in 68 AD as his power was about to be usurped.  We also know that Nero’s persecution of Christians grew as he progressed in his reign.

Peter likely went to Jerusalem in the early sixties to assume a leadership role in the church there.  This is the place from which Peter likely wrote both of his epistles.  Given that Peter’s first epistle is written to churches that Paul founded and shepherded through written communications, it makes sense that Peter’s first letter was written either after Paul’s martyrdom or at least at the point in Paul’s imprisonment that he could no longer correspond with his churches.  This, Peter took over in his stead.  Since Paul is usually considered to have been martyred around 64 AD, it is likely that Peter’s first letter was not written until at least that point.  And given the internal evidence (2 Peter 3:1) that Peter’s second epistle was written to the same churches as he wrote his first epistle to, that places his second letter later as well.  My suggestion is that 2 Peter was probably written between 66 and 67 AD, just before Peter’s own martyrdom (2 Peter 1:14).

The question we must ask, then, was Jude written before or after Peter’s second letter?  Or, in other words, was Peter building off of Jude’s letter or was Jude building off of Peter’s.  The answer seems to be found in the connection between 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 18.  Both verses speak of the “mockers” who will come in the end times.  The difference is that when Jude makes this comment, he does so as a quote from “the apostles.”  The word that they both use, which means “one who mocks,” is the Greek word e˙mpai÷kthß (empaiktas).  These two verses are the only two occurrences of this term in the New Testament, thus the only Apostle that Jude can be quoting from is the Apostle Peter. 

This places the letter of Jude as having been written some time after AD 66/67.  This also means that Jude was likely written to the same churches as Peter wrote his epistles to, given that only they would understand the reference that Jude was making.  This seems to make sense, given the context of both letters, given that Peter speaks of the false teachers as coming (2 Peter 2:1) and Jude speaks of false teachers being present (Jude 4).  Thus Peter is writing as a warning to beware of what is to come and Jude is writing to call people to cast out those who have come.

Though this may seem like a rather meaningless debate, it is important to note that Jude was writing under Peter’s authority.  The early church fathers, when they were being led by the Holy Spirit to discern whether a book that was circulating amongst the churches was genuinely authoritative and the prophetic word of God, the primary criterion that they used was that of apostolic authorship (or oversight).  Given that there are such striking similarities between Jude and 2 Peter, it is not hard to recognize the influence of one upon the other.  Recognizing Peter, the apostle, as influencing the writing of Jude’s letter, then was an important factor in the recognition of this book as authoritative, as Jude himself, was not an Apostle.

 

Place of Origin:  Again, this is an educated guess, no more.  If the book is dated shortly after Peter’s death, falling in the late sixties it is likely to have been written in Rome.  Were it written in the early seventies, it may have been penned from one of the churches that Jude was preaching at in Macedonia.  Since it seems reasonable to date this within a fairly short period of time of the circulation of Peter’s second letter (the power of the language—things being repeated from one letter to the next—would diminish over time),my suggestion is that Jude wrote it from Rome within a few years of Peter’s death.

 

Destination and Audience: If I am correct in that Jude was writing to the same churches that Peter had been writing to, then the audience would be the churches in what is today modern Turkey.  These are churches that were largely founded by the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys, which adds support to the later dating of this letter.  Jude makes a point of introducing himself as the brother of James.  This may be simply a way of indicating which Jude he was (there were others) or it may be a way of connecting his letter to James’ earlier letter.  Again, these are questions that fall into the realm of reason and not revelation, so we must be content in waiting for a definite answer until we are in a position to ask the author himself.