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Understanding Jude

Jude is probably the one of the most neglected book in the Bible; why is that?

It might be because it is such a short book - it is only 25 verses long. We tend to overlook small things and think that big is beautiful. But God does not think that way. God looks for quality not quantity in his word.

Jude may be neglected because it is a strange book. Jude is strange because angels are mentioned so often. Jude is strange because it tells us about an odd event when Michael the archangel disputed with the devil over the about the body of Moses. It is also strange because Jude quotes a prophecy of Enoch that we do not find anywhere in the Old Testament. However even though it is a strange book, it is still God’s truth and we need to hear it.

Jude may also be neglected because it is a severe book. What is its theme? It was written to warn against apostasy. False teachers are mentioned no less than eight times (v.v. 8,9,10.11,12,16,18 and 19), in fact one commentator calls Jude the acts of the apostates. Some may therefore see the theme of Jude as too severe and negative. We naturally crave for positive, uplifting teaching, but we need negative teaching as well.

In fact Jude is not wholly negative. Jude sandwiches his warnings between encouraging words (v.v. 1-2 and verses 20, 24 and 25).

Jude tells us in verse 3 that he had originally planned to write about our common salvation. However he then discovered that false teachers had crept into the church (verse 4) so he felt compelled to change the emphasis of what he was about to write.

Jude must not be neglected even though it is a short, strange and severe book. Why? First, because Jude is in God’s word. No Bible is complete without it therefore we should treasure it and study it. As Paul wrote -

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Second, we ought to study Jude because his warnings are relevant to our age. All through the Gospel age one of Satan’s tactics has been to undermine the church from within. In every age the church has been at risk from false teachers. Jesus warned us of this in Matthew 24:24-25 - “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.”

Today we live in an age of relativism and tolerance. People are taught that there are no absolutes and that everyone can believe what they want to believe. Above all, it is unacceptable to judge others and say they are wrong.

Jude exhorts believers to stand up for the truth. He says that we must not tolerate error in the church. This is not a popular approach today and is something that Christians have always struggled with. Why? Because at the heart of the Christian faith is a message of love. The greatest Christian grace is love - God is love, so we strive to show love to everyone, but many Christians then go further. They say that loving all surely means accepting all and that not judging must mean that all views are equally valid and should therefore be tolerated. Many use the famous words of Jesus in Matthew 7 to justify this position:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?”

“There you are” they say, “do not judge others.” But read on. Jesus adds: “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus’ is not forbidding judging, but insisting we first judge ourselves before we judge others.

God’s Word cuts right this message of tolerance. Instead the Bible clearly tells us that there is unchanging truth and that there are absolutes. God’s people should believe in absolute truth.  God’s people should not tolerate error and falsehood. Every Christian needs to read the book of Jude. We all need to hear the warnings about false teachers and be on our guard. Such people can creep in at any time and in any place.

Jude speaks of love (he calls his readers beloved) but he goes on to urge them to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude did not relish controversy and nor should we. But there is a time and place for us to contend earnestly for the faith.

Jude uses many examples from history to illustrate his point. Some names we are familiar with, like Sodom and Gomorrah and Cain, while others may not be so well-known. However his main theme remains the same – the world is full of people who may look like Christians and say they are Christians, but we should always be on our guard, because the Bible gives us so many reminders that everything is not always what it seems and people who look and sound OK may not in fact be what they appear.

Jude’s language sometimes seems rather extreme. He compares such people to wandering stars and dead trees, but his meaning is clear. False prophets are leading people nowhere and will never help true believers grow in their faith. In fact, he suggests the eternal destruction that awaits both false prophets and those who follow them. Jude also tells his readers that such men and women will lead to churches being divided and broken up, which is something we see happening more and more in our day.

In verse 14 Jude introduces us to Enoch, who is first mentioned way back in Genesis 4. Jude, like all the Gospel writers, accepts as true history the early chapters of Genesis. If you think they are myths then you fly in the face of what Jude, Peter and Paul thought and above all what Jesus taught. Jude says that Enoch was born in the 7th generation from Adam. This agrees with Genesis 5, which tells us that Enoch was born 808 years after the creation of Adam. In fact, Adam was still alive when Enoch was born.

Enoch was a remarkable man in three ways. Firstly, we read that after his son Methuselah was born he walked with God. The birth of this son changed his life and after it he lived in close communion with the Lord. Why is that? Methuselah literally means “when he dies it shall be sent”. What would be sent? If you trace the dates in Genesis you will find that Methuselah died the very year God sent the great flood.  When Enoch’s son was born the Lord revealed to Enoch that a great judgement was coming to the earth when he son died. So Enoch gave his son this special name.

Now this is the context in which we must understand that Enoch walked with God. Every day as his son grew and he spoke or heard his son’s name he would be reminded on the terrible judgment to come. Can you imagine it? “When he dies it shall be sent– time for breakfast”. “When he dies it shall be sent – we are going out now.” Enoch lived in the knowledge that this world was passing away and so he walked with God. He was looking forward to his permanent home in heaven. He walked knowing that the spiritual was more important than the material. Do we live with even a shadow of that thought?

Secondly, Enoch was remarkable in that he did not die. We read in Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God and he was not, for the LORD took him. He was translated straight to heaven, just like Elijah. The Lord chose to take him to be with himself without him dying first.

Thirdly, Enoch was remarkable in that he gave the first recorded prophecy by a man. We read it here in the book of Jude. There is no record of this prophecy in the Old Testament, and some scholars believe that Jude obtained it from the book of Enoch, a Jewish work written in the 3rd century BC. However at the end of the day it does not matter. What is important is that Jude was moved by the Holy Spirit to record this prophecy. 2 Peter 1:21 tells us “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

Jude makes it very clear that Enoch was prophesying about the fate of apostates. He says “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men.” These men are the one he is just been describing - those who are spots on their love feasts, those who are clouds without rain and twice-dead trees.

The Lord wants us all to know what is going to ultimately happen to all those who fall away from the Lord and to all those who infiltrate and then destroy churches. As we shall see in a moment, their fate is judgement. It is a sobering thought that the first ever prophecy given to a man focuses on apostates. This is not a new problem, in fact right from the dawn of time there have been those who start well then fall away and in doing so wreak great havoc.

God wants us all to be in no doubt about what happens to those who refuse to repent and believe in the Lord and those who give an appearance of believing but then fall away and lead others astray.

First this should be a great warning to all. Beware of going down the road of an apostate. It is a road that leads to judgment and hell. Beware of believing any teaching that adds to the pure gospel. Beware of following any teaching that promotes licentiousness. Beware of teachers who promote worldliness. John writes in 1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Do not believe every spirit! Test all you read and everything  you see against the bar of God’s word! Your eternal destiny depends on it.

Second, this should be a great comfort to faithful believers. It is likely that all of us will one day see the effect of apostates and apostate teaching. It may be in a church where you serve and worship, it may be in a church nearby. As we have said previously it is a sign of the end of the age. When it happens we may be devastated. But in this prophecy there is comfort. Those who teach error and destroy churches will give an account to the head of the church.

So what is Enoch’s prophecy all about? We are told right at the beginning in verse 14: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” The subject of this prophecy is none other than the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thousands of years before the first coming of the Lord Jesus into the world as a baby, Enoch prophecies about the second coming of the Lord Jesus into the world as judge!

Jude adds that he will come with ten thousands of his saints. Saints literally means holy ones and refers first the angels and second to the dead in Christ. Both with accompany the Lord Jesus when he returns. What a remarkable prophecy! The veil was lifted and Enoch was able to see far into the future to the last great event in the history of the world.

The Scriptures tells us that certain events had to take place before Enoch’s prophecy could be fulfilled. The Messiah had to be born of a virgin, he had to live a sinless life and he had to die and rise again. Then Jerusalem had to be captured and the temple destroyed, the gospel had to go into the entire world and there had to be wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters. All these prophecies have now been fulfilled.

However there are two other events which may not yet have happened. First there is the rise of the antichrist and the great falling away. It is possible that these things have already happened. The great reformers believed that the Pope was the antichrist and today we see evidence of many falling away from the faith.

Some believe that before the Lord returns there will be a great revival amongst the Jews, based on Romans 11. Paul writes: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” However many believe that this refers to the full number of elect Jews who will be saved throughout the history of the world. If this is true then the Lord Jesus could return at any time and this prophecy would be fulfilled.

Whatever your view on the antichrist and the future of Israel I believe that it is vital none of us think that the Lord could not return today and all prophecy could be fulfilled. What should our attitude be as a result? It is summed up by the tense that Enoch uses – “Behold the Lord comes.” He is writing in the present tense. The Lord is, as it were, on his way. He is coming. Jesus is coming. Do you live in the light of the fact that Jesus will come suddenly and unexpectedly? Are you watching and waiting? Are you living soberly, believing that this very day Jesus Christ could call you home?

This prophecy could not be clearer: the Lord is “coming to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Think of any apostates that you know. As we speak they are in God’s eyes ungodly. If they die in the same state they will be found guilty and punished.

Now think about your own soul, your own life. Are you saved? Are you right with God? Have you repented and believed on the Lord Jesus? If not then you are ungodly in God’s eyes. You will be judged, found guilty and punished for your ungodly words and deeds.

But there is hope. The Lord is coming, but he has not arrived yet. The end of the world is coming but that has not arrived yet. Judgement is coming but that moment has not arrived yet. Today you can meet the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. Are you ready?

One of Jude’s favourite words is “keep”. He writes: “keep yourselves in the love of God”. You may be thinking: “Hold on, there is a contradiction here. In verse 1 Jude tells us that we are kept or preserved in our faith by the Lord. Now 20 verses later he tells us that we must keep or preserve ourselves in the love of God.” Human logic says that if God is doing something then we do not need to do anything. But divine or Biblical logic is different. Biblical logic tells us that if God is doing something then we should want to do the same thing too.

It is God who saves, and we are saved by grace, yet the Bible commands sinners that they have a responsibility to repent and believe. It is God who sanctifies us, yet the Bible commands us to put off the old man and put on the new, to put away lying and to tell the truth, to stop stealing and work with our hands etc. It is God who keeps us yet the Bible commands us that we keep ourselves in the faith.

Here is the perfect harmony of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. God is sovereign in salvation. God will save his people, sanctify his people and keep his people, but this does not diminish our responsibility one iota. So how do we keep ourselves in the love of God? In John 15 we see God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in this whole matter.

Jesus uses the illustration of a vine. He is the vine and we are the branches. We draw our life from him as a branch draws life from the vine. As a branch that is cut off dies, so our spiritual life dies if cut off from the Lord.

Yet even though he has said we are in effect completely dependent on God for spiritual life, Jesus goes on to say in verse 9-10: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

How do we keep ourselves in the love of God? It is very simple. By obeying his word and command and by living the life he wants us to live. We found the love of God in the first place by obeying the call to repent and believe. So we keep ourselves in the love of God by continuing to obey the Lord.

None of this means that we save ourselves or keep ourselves. Who woke us up from our sins? God did. Who gave us the spirit to repent and believe in Jesus? God did. Who gives us the spiritual strength to keep his commands? God will.  Who will keep us to the end? God will.

Jude ends in verses 24 to 25 with the comforting news that the Lord is able: The Lord is able to keep us to the end and then to so change us that we are perfectly fitted for a perfect heaven. What a perfect Saviour we have!

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”  

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