The book of Enoch – the Testament of Moses – the book of Jude. In this synopsis, we’ll not tackle the idea of the canonization of the scriptures, but we will take note of the two occasions where Jude is drawing on material of Jewish literature from the 2nd Temple Period (roughly from the return from Babylon through the 1st Century AD). The pieces of literature he draws on is the book of Enoch (1st Enoch to be specific) and a work called, the Testament of Moses (sometimes referred to as the Assumption of Moses). Again, this isn’t to try to tackle the idea of the canon of what we have as inspired scripture, but it is to simply recognize that the authors of scripture weren’t opposed to referencing other works to either help make their point, or, to draw on the common understanding of the Jewish mind of the day. Jude is no exception to this and we’ll highlight this as we work through the book.
Jude is traditional thought of to be the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) and his work is a single chapter. As we’ll see, Jude was attempting to write to his audience concerning their salvation, but felt pressed to change course and write to them of something more urgently important. Let’s begin looking at the book.
Jude 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: 1:2 Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 make mention of Jude being the brother of James, this is what lends some credence to this same Jude being the author. Note when he starts the book, however, he appeals to his biology with James (as his brother), but his status with Jesus (as a servant). Being the brother of Jesus would have been a great way to try to give Jude more credibility, but he doesn’t name drop for that purpose. He would rather be known as James’ brother, but Jesus’ servant. Writing to those who are sanctified by God and preserved in Jesus Christ, his salutations are bathed in the traditional mercy and peace and love. It is largely unknown who his audience is specifically, however, it is apparent that he is writing generically to believers – those who are sanctified in God and preserved in Christ. In fact, in verse 3, Jude speaks of this common salvation that the sanctified and preserved would be enjoying. Jude wanted to write a letter that would rejoice in their mutual salvation, yet, it was needful for Jude to write to the concerning something else as there was a need to contend earnestly for the faith. There were those who were sabotaging God’s grace by turning it into lasciviousness desires (overt sexual desires) and in so doing, denying the very God of the grace they were destroying. If God’s grace and free forgiveness are the order of the day, then you could say that Jude was writing about folks who were using that as a license to sin. Post-Reformation Christianity has largely turned faith into positions or creeds that one aligns with in word, but often misses the alignment in deed. Faith, by its very nature, produces faithfulness. Trusting God isn’t limited to not denying Bible, but is engrossed in a life that walks faithfully. A walk absent of faithfulness renders a talk of faith suspect. This is a common theme throughout the New Testament. Even today, there are Christians who use God’s grace as a license to sin because hey, I’m saved and God already promises forgiveness to me, so I’ll just get new forgiveness each time. However, what Jude points out is that this approach doesn’t celebrate God’s grace, but rather serves to expose your true heart’s motives – to deny God Himself. Jude is going to show that these folks are nothing new in his time, but were even of old, doing the very same things. The wording can give the impression that these folks of old were predestined by God (ordained) to be debaucherous, however, the idea is that there are already existing records of written history of men of long ago that were defaming and defacing the grace of God. What is ordained is the preservation of their example, which is what Jude is going to draw on. There will be three examples of old:
- Israel’s Failure of Faith
- The Angels the Sinned
- Sodom and Gomorrha’s Failure
Jude 1:5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In the Roman world, advancing in social groups or even labor groups (i.e. Guilds) was often something that required engaging in lascivious behavior in order to attain status. These believers that Jude is writing to have given themselves to the Roman approach to things and were effectually trashing God’s grace. Much like Paul does on many occasions, Jude is interested in getting them to understand that there is no status to be attained with God by yielding to the Roman system. Therefore, Jude reminds them of three events that demonstrates the seriousness of using their faith as a license to sin. First, he mentions how God destroyed those who came out of Egypt but through their time in the wilderness, refused to believe God – refused to trust His promises. The author of Hebrews writes of this as well,
Hebrews 3:16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 3:17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 3:18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Yes, God had delivered them from Egypt, but through this disloyalty to Him, He chose to not let them enter into Canaan but to die in the wilderness. Even in Exodus 32, when Moses confronts Aaron and the people for making a golden calf, God makes it very clear that disloyalty is not acceptable. Disloyalty isn’t a struggle with faith, but an brazen decision to abandon God. In making the golden calf, the people made a god unto themselves and chose the calf over God Himself. God tells Moses after the confrontation, Exodus 32:33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Although perhaps not overtly lascivious behavior, the union of themselves to another god carries those undertones. In fact, this is something that Israel will struggle with all the way up to the Exile.
Second, Jude lights upon the angels who sinned. This post can get rather long if we stop to unpack this fully, however, suffice it to say, Jude is drawing on Genesis 6 – the sons of God who cohabitated with the daughters of men. However, he isn’t just thinking about Genesis 6 because Genesis 6 makes no mention of angels being reserved in chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (We find similar language in 2Peter). This comes from the 2nd Temple work called, 1st Enoch. Much of 1st Enoch is about “the watchers” (the sons of God) and their sin with humanity. To a Jew, there are three reasons for the state of the world. We often see it as the rebellion of man in the garden and nothing else, however, they saw the rebellion of man, the angels that sinned, and the tower of Babel as the three reasons the world is in the shape that it is in. Does this mean that 1st Enoch should be part of the biblical canon since Jude is quoting it? No, not necessarily, but it does demonstrate the working knowledge of the text in Jude’s mind as he correlates events of the Hebrew Scriptures. Just because it isn’t in the Bible doesn’t mean it isn’t true or isn’t the way they thought. There were many works that were part of their libraries that highlighted their understanding of things, it’s just not all of them were inspired as the scriptures were. In fact, there are many books/letters mentioned in Scripture that are not part of Scripture. But, again, that doesn’t mean they are wrong or false or not truthful. In this case, it would be rather counter-productive for Jude to quote 1st Enoch to make his point if 1st Enoch isn’t true in his mind. Jude sees the angels that sinned with the daughters of men (an act of lasciviousness) as spiritual beings who trashed God’s grace and God immediately reserved them in chains of darkness.
Last, Jude references what befell Sodom and Gomorrha. It is very telling to note that outside of Genesis 18 and 19, this is the only other time in the Bible where Sodom and Gomorrha are mentioned in relation to lasciviousness – sexual sin. This is telling because we have a fascination with these two cities and use them as the poster-cities for how God thinks about and deals with homosexuality, yet, the Bible very rarely speaks of sexual sin in relation to these cities. Ezekiel reminds us of what the sin of Sodom was: Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Even though Sodom and Gomorrha had an overabundance, through their pride they hoarded it and did not use it righteously – to strengthen the poor and the needy. This is the idea of being righteous and just in the Hebrew Scriptures – it is being hospitable and caring for those who cannot care for themselves. It is, as Micah says, Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Yet, as Jude is drawing on the lascivious behavior, he takes the occasion to draw on the lasciviousness that was pervasive in these cities. Instead of extending hospitality to the stranger – instead of extending mercy to the poor – they yoked up with pride and lasciviousness. And, how did God deal with this? These cities suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. Why? Because of homosexuality? No – that was only a symptom of the larger issue that Ezekiel told us about. God destroyed these cities because they fully abandoned their opportunity to walk righteously. Now, this ‘eternal fire’ – are the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha still smoldering today? Clearly not. We need to be careful with words like ‘eternal’ as it is very easy to simply conclude that this is describing something that has no end – that the fire never goes out. Yet, often, the word ‘eternal’ is used as an adjective, not an adverb. An adverb would have ‘eternal’ describing the verb – suffering, in this case. However, what it is speaking about is not a process of burning that never ends, but the RESULT of burning that never ends. In other words, it is a destruction that can never be reversed – the RESULT of the fire is eternal in magnitude.
Jude is fairly succinct in his examples of how God deals with those who would attempt to yoke Him up with the world’s systems – those who would trample His grace under foot for their own benefit and gain.
Jude 1:8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 1:10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Jude draws the connection in verse 8 that these people whom Jude is writing about have gone chasing their dreams resulting in defiling the flesh, rejecting authority and blaspheming (speaking evil) of those who are holy. Jude is writing of Christians who allow their lust for power and status to steamroll their fellow Christian brothers and sisters that doesn’t actually result in status, but a defiling of their flesh. But, even Michael, when contending with the devil about Moses’ body, didn’t take the opportunity to steamroll the devil with railing accusations, but simply relayed a simple message – the Lord rebuke thee. (By the way, you’ll not find this anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. This comes from the Testament of Moses I mentioned at the outset–yet another 2nd Temple work that Jude is quoting). Jude isn’t writing to rail on these folks, but just as Michael did to the devil, Jude writes to offer a simple chance to hear rebuke and respond accordingly. Jude knows that these folks who are out there speaking evil of God and/or His children have no idea what they are talking about and are only using their natural understanding to corrupt themselves. Again, they are not attaining status or points, but inviting detriment to their own selves. Jude wants the audience to see very quickly that they should not attempt to follow in these other folks paths, but to earnestly contend for the faith.
Jude 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 1:12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 1:13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. 1:14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 1:15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. 1:16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. 1:17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 1:18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 1:19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
The rest of the letter is focused on Jude reminding his audience of God’s righteous judgment against ungodliness. Attempting to bring the Roman way of life into the Body of Christ is nothing short of ungodly – it is disloyalty to God. Jude describes them as having followed in the footsteps of Cain – the murderer of his brother, Abel, which likewise took him out of the presence of God and placed him as a vagabond in the land. These people Jude speaks of are not balancing the world with God, but are effectually killing the brethren who follow after them and likewise taking these brethren away from the presence of God. He says their greed is like that of Balaam. Balaam was bribed by Balak in Numbers 22 to speak evil against Israel yet was prevented of the Lord from doing so. Instead of following after righteousness, Balaam was bought off to bring evil words against Israel. Likewise, Jude’s audience needs to be aware of that those who have gone after Rome have followed in Balaam’s footsteps of greed (also mentioned in 2Peter 2:15). He even likens them to those who perished in the gainsaying of Core (Korah). In Numbers 16, Korah and 250 co-conspirators attempt to overthrow Moses as the leader of Israel and God has the earth open and swallow Korah and his entourage. Jude sees these who would attempt to yoke Rome to Christ as having the mind of Korah – deciding who is truly in charge. Yet, Jude poetically speaks of these folks as the raging of the sea’s waves, the foam thereof is a mixture of their own shame. He says they are like wandering stars that in the end, have no place to shine but are in blackness and darkness forever. This judgment against them shouldn’t be a surprise for even Enoch prophesied that the Lord would come with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment upon all and to demonstrate to the ungodly all of the facets of their ungodliness.
Jude 1:20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
It’s pretty bleak for these folks, but Jude pleads with the rest that they not follow after these ungodly men, but to build themselves up in their faith – their most holy faith. Being holy makes you separated or distinct. Jude wants to confirm to them that it isn’t reaching status in Rome that makes them distinct, but it is their faith. Instead of building a social/cultural facade in the Roman system, rather give yourselves to building up each other, in the faith that has already made you utterly distinct. Have this construction project, if you will, wrapped in prayer, in the Holy Ghost which works to keep you in the love of God, not chasing dreams of greed and lasciviousness, but looking for the mercy of Christ. What did Micah say? The LORD requires that we do justly, to LOVE MERCY, and to walk humbly with our God. For those who may be doubting or toying with following after ungodliness, Jude says we make the difference through compassion – through mercy. But this mercy even extends to going after those who are about to fall into ungodliness. Compassion that reminds them, as Jude has done, that it is a fearful thing to divorce yourself from loyalty with God, yet nonetheless, work that message to pull them out of the fire, even though their very clothing is tainted by their foolishness. In other words, ignore what their ungodliness has done to their appearance because saving them out of the fire is more important than their immediate countenance. All of this is to be done in the light of Him that is able to keep you from falling into the same perdition, and is able to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, joyfully.
This is the book of Jude – a letter of warning against the temptation for ungodliness and lascivious lifestyles, but likewise a letter of encouragement for the rest of us to have mercy and compassion and rescue as many as we can, yet being sober to recognize that the Lord is who keeps us, lest we fall by the same tactics.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.