The Book of Jude and the Last Days
I am happy to share an excellent article by Doug Wilkinson, on the book of Jude. I can attest to the power of the parallels between Jude and 2 Peter since in both formal and inform debates I have incorporated those parallels. To this date, I have not had one opponent to offer any kind of serious response.
Looking at Jude:
The Original Plan
I Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude’s initial intent was to write about the salvation he shared with his audience. It makes sense that he would do so given his position as the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. He and his brother James both shared this status. Would the literal brothers of Jesus have any special status or quality to their salvation? Similar to Jude, Peter also made sure to emphasize the common nature of salvation when he reminded his audience that men and women were equally saved (1 Pet. 3:7). Just because there was some fleshly difference between the saved parties didn’t mean that one was any more saved than the other. In this case, Jude was apparently going to describe the salvation that he shared with his readers. Theologians would have celebrated this. Maybe it would have helped fill in the pieces of atonement theory or some other seemingly important topic! But, something else demanded Jude’s immediate attention.
Some recently arisen crisis was so important that he could not take the time to address soteriology (the study of salvation theology). Instead, he had to issue a warning to his readers. Given the short nature of Jude’s letter it should be obvious that this warning was dire and immediate. We can presume that it would have been a fairly simple matter to write separate letters about both topics. Or, that maybe Jude could simply write a longer letter addressing both issues. But, there wasn’t time for that.
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude warns his audience of enemies who have infiltrated the church. These infiltrators have been quiet for some time, but have now become active. These people include those Paul and the other Apostles repeatedly warned about (Acts 20:29, 2nd Tim. 3:2-7, Titus 3:1-9, also 2nd Peter 2:1-3 and Rev. 2:12-17):(2nd Peter 2:1-3)
2 Peter 2:1f – But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
In the pastoral epistles, Paul clearly warns that “in the last days” these enemies will cause problems in the church. For our purposes, what matters here is that they are no longer sleeper agents. According to Jude, who wrote late in the order of New Testament epistles, they have become active. As we will see, their activity was prophetically anticipated and an indication of the onset of the climax of prophecy. Their destruction will come quickly.
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
This isn’t the first time that God’s people have had to deal with unbelieving infiltrators. God has previously demonstrated that he knows how to deal with his enemies. In the exodus, he rescued his believing nation and then destroyed all of their pursuers. At the time of the flood, he removed a group of troublemakers (probably the Watchers in 1 Enoch, a popular writing at the time of the Apostles) who had escalated the sinfulness of men. One of them, Azzazel, had taught men how to make weapons and women how to put on makeup. It was all downhill from there.
In 1 Enoch, these Watchers were bound in chains and held in the bottomless pit until the time of their eventual judgment. The same language is used to describe the binding of Satan in Rev. 20:1-3. Finally, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God allowed them to exist for a time, but eventually brought judgment on them. In all three cases, God demonstrated that he will eventually step in to stop the function of evil.
Jude v. 8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
The book of Jude moves on to describe the specific doctrine followed by these infiltrators. In addition to references to evil people from earlier in the scriptural narrative (Korah and his followers) he summarizes them by describing more contemporary characteristics, “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.”
While these sins could be found in any generation, Jude is making a specific point about his generation. The churches of the time have been infiltrated by a prophetically significant group whose arrival in history marks the climax of prophecy. They won’t go back into hiding, or be replicated by another group of people possibly thousands of years into the future. Jude’s point is that they are operational right here, right now (right then, right there).
To emphasize the active work of these enemies, in v. 12 Jude points out that they are actively in operating in the congregations of the first century. These are “hidden reefs in your love feasts.” That’s not a description of notional enemies thousands of years in the future. They are active and alive in the first century. There is not a hint anywhere in this epistle or elsewhere in the New Testament that the infiltrators will exist outside of the lifetimes of the Apostles.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
To establish that these infiltrators were an indication of a prophetic crisis, Jude quotes Peter, an apostle of Lord Jesus Christ. The currently operational infiltrators in question are the “last days” scoffers. There is no hint that the scoffers are types of people that will exist in any or all generations. There is no hint that the scoffers will cease to function then somehow mysteriously begin to function thousands of years later. This phrase demands that the enemy in question, who are actively functioning in the love feasts of the generation living in the mid-60s AD, are the prophetically predicted end-time scoffers. Jude’s solution is to hold tightly to the doctrine that the readers have already been taught. They are to do so in expectation of deliverance from God. The readers are to be merciful when possible, but if necessary they are to act aggressively – as if they are saving their drifting friends from an impending fire.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude’s doxology is a blessing to his readers. He promises them that God is able to keep them from falling during the climax of tribulation predicted in scripture. They will be under pressure to abandon Christ and his teachings, but they will be given the power to overcome. The description of Christ having majesty, dominion, and authority is important. We find out from other passages in the New Testament that the promise of his rule in Psalms 110 had been fulfilled at the ascension and session. The Lord Jesus had been God and had ruled in history past. But, his enthronement after the ascension marked a new phase of his function in history. As described in Matt. 23,within the lifetimes of those who heard him speak, Christ would return in wrath against his enemies and those who were associated with martyring the justified. Though he is longsuffering, God knows how to hold his enemies accountable.
The crisis in Jude’s generation was real. In his generation, the previously prophesied group of apostates had arrived. God had always shown he was able to protect his followers and judge his enemies. Jude was warning his readers to be on guard against those enemies who were living among them. If we interpret Jude from the point of view of how the original audience would have understood it this conclusion is unavoidable. Conventional theology has avoided teaching systematically from Jude in no small part because traditional eschatology cannot allow for Jude to be telling the simple truth. While most sermons or commentaries on Jude focus on avoiding the sins of the infiltrators, they avoid the actual message of the letter. The prophesied infiltrators are already active in their churches. The day of the Lord would happen in their generation.
DKP– As you can see, the book of Jude, although short, is extremely powerful. To try to discount the urgency and imminence of the impending judgment of those false teachers at the coming of the Lord is to simply discount and deny the language.
For a more in-depth examination of the book of Jude and the parallels with 2 Peter, see my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat. You will be amazed at all of the parallels!