Among the twenty-seven precious books that comprise the eternal canon of the New Testament, there stands the epistle Jude next to the end. Although brief, its approximately six hundred words are of profound importance for the days in which we live. Of the New Testament’s four short epistles (Philemon, II and III John, Jude), Jude is the fullest in burden. Its providential placement in the biblical canon honorably makes it a “preface to the book of Revelation.” Appropriately, the message of this little book concerns the falling away of the institutional church on earth before the Second Coming of the Lord. It is the epistle that contrasts the Beloved of God and the Behated of God in history.
To appreciate this spiritual concept in history, the reader must consider a startling truth at the outset of this article: the New Testament writings were not penned until the institutional church began to fall away. This is most important to observe when studying the first and second generations of the first-century Church.
The Falling-Away Visible Church
On the Day of Pentecost there were already at least some five hundred believers having seen Christ after His resurrection. Then on that day another three thousand souls were saved. Christianity was a new experience, never known before in history; it was the new wine that Christ spoke of in Luke 5:37-39. What does one do with this new wine? The great temptation would be to place it in the old wine bottles of Judaism, for this was all that they knew. That is what happened through the Judaizers; they endeavored to pour Christianity into old Judaism. When this new faith commenced, there were dangers that it would soon face. In passages such as Matthew 13, 24, and 25, Christ had warned of this danger.
By A.D. 45, fifteen years after the ascension of Christ, James gave us an insight into the Jewish church. In these short years the new church became noticeably filled with much carnality and weakness. In chapter one James speaks of their frailty in times of testing and in the temptations to evil. Chapters three and four address the fleshly power of the tongue and worldliness that were bringing grief to the testimony of Christ. The burden of James is contemporary to the events of Acts 13 where the Lord begins to move the burden of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles. As the rest of the New Testament epistles begin to unfold, there is the clear evidence of the birth and emergence of a neo-Christianity troubling the true Church. Paul speaks of “another Gospel” coming to the Galatians (chapter 1); he writes and warns the Corinthians of another spirit and another Jesus (II Corinthians 11) coming in among them. John writes of antichrists that had infiltrated the church congregations (I John 2) and of those who professed to be born again but were not. Peter in his second epistle warns of false prophets and teachers privately coming in among the saints, and Paul warns of wolves from without and from within (Acts 20) coming to spoil the flock. A falling away was already deeply entrenched by the end of the first century within the Church on earth.
After the death of Peter and Paul, but before the writings of John, the powerful epistle of Jude was written. Of the six men called Jude or Judas in the New Testament, Jude or Judas the son of Mary and Joseph was the author of this epistle. He is mentioned in Mark 6:3; I Corinthians 9:5 seems to suggest that as a brother of the Lord he may have had a wife to accompany him on his missionary journeys. Tradition, quoted by Eusebius, tells of the grandchildren of Jude who were brought before the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.). According to John 7 none of the siblings of Joseph’s home had believed on Jesus as the Christ during His ministry; however, it is evident by Acts 1:14, in the upper room, that they came to believe on Him after the Resurrection. This half-brother of the Lord is the one to write, with great warning to the church, about the increasing falling away. His writing is closely related to Peter’s second epistle.
Clearly, a departure from the Faith began early in the first century Church and continued to gather momentum in the later part of the century. The book of Jude seems to be a prophetic history of the growing apostasy that will finally take over the public view of the Christian Faith before the coming of the Lord.
It is clearly stated in his introduction that Jude is writing to believers! He calls them the “sanctified,” the “preserved,” the “called,” and in verse 3 the “beloved.” Each generation has had those sealed with this understanding. There have been the sanctified, those who have an intense desire for the holiness of God and holiness of life. There have been the “called.” These have responded to the powerful call of the Gospel; an effectual call has laid hold of their lives. And there have been the “preserved,” those kept by or for Jesus Christ. No matter how dark and evil the days become, no matter how strong the current of the apostasy swells, there continues to be the sanctified, the preserved in Jesus Christ, and the called ones who continue to hear that calling.
Who are these sanctified, these preserved, these called ones, and these beloved? Often we have seen men who started out for God, led ministries according to the Word of God, and then capitulated to the gradual falling away of their contemporaries. Only the end of our life will truly determine whether we are a part of that quartet of character sealed by heaven. So many clamor for “eternal security,” but such a security is only for those who will know this quartet of character to the end of life; they are the true Elect. The test of this security is found in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” All of these verbs are in the present tense. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” [emphasis added]. Eternal Security outside of its biblical context is never promised.
The Purpose of Jude’s Epistle
According to verses 3 and 4, it was upon Jude’s heart to write an epistle to the Christians concerning the common salvation. What Christian heart would be against a Gospel of evangelism? The common salvation is the matchless story of God’s love revealed in the Son of God Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day. The heights and depths of this salvation have never been fully fathomed!
Yes, this common salvation was to be the theme to the Beloved of the Lord. But something happened! The power that guided his pen constrained Jude to write about something else. What could be greater and more necessary than the common salvation, yea, than evangelism? Well, from God’s standpoint there is something greater than evangelism and that is earnestly contending for the Faith that was once and for all delivered unto the saints! Jude’s writing here truly demonstrates that the men who wrote the Scriptures did not write what they wanted but what God wanted them to write!
What Is “the Faith”?
“The Faith” is not a creed or a confession of faith, as formulated by a denomination or segment of Christians. The Faith is that which was once (in the aorist, “once for all”) delivered unto the saints. We read of this Faith in Luke 18:8, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” These words were spoken prior to Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, and all of the Church Fathers and Reformers. We are not speaking of a theological system but of “the Faith.” This is the embodiment of revealed truth, the Word of God! This Faith was once for all delivered unto the saints. It was not delivered to the world, to Mel Gibson and Hollywood, or to any one saint to write and claim the whole embodiment of Truth. It was written to the saints! It is permanent, irrevocable, and unchanging!
Jude exhorted his audience to “earnestly contend” for this faith. How do we earnestly contend for this faith? We do so by living it: by constancy, zeal for the truth, holiness of life, mutual exhortation, prayer, suffering for the Gospel’s sake. But we do it also by defending it against all those who would pervert the Gospel. We must contend by struggling, fighting, combating, and battling against the opposition of this Faith. It truly is a twofold contending: militant against the apostasy, yet magnificent (in the way we live) for the Lord.
Certain Men Crept in Unawares
There have been, are, and will be those who corrupt this Faith! They come in the name of Christianity—certain men, who have crept in! They have secretly slipped into the fold! In John 10:1 Christ stated that if someone comes in any other way than through the door, that one is a thief and a robber. He has come in to destroy either secretly (thief) or openly (a robber). God has foretold of such men. They pretend to be Christian but live as ungodly men; they have no true regard for God in their thinking and actions of life. The evil they try to introduce is twofold: (1) They deny holy living endeavoring to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness and abusing the grace of God; they belittle biblical separation in the life and ministry. (2) They deny the Lordship of God and Jesus Christ by denying Christ the right to be the Lord and Master and denying the Father His rights as Lord of the life.
The Behated of God
The child of God must understand in reading the epistle of Jude that God hates some people; He hates apostates. Jude warns the Beloved of the Behated! Such a concept of a Behated must not surprise us. Romans 9:13 states, “as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (see also Deuteronomy 1:27; 9:28; Hosea 9:15; Malachi 1:3; Revelation 2:6, 15). There are the Beloved of God, and there are the Behated of God. The Behated are the “Christian” apostates. The next few verses of Jude deal with such individuals. In verses 5-10, Jude speaks of apostates of past history and how God judged each of them. The only antidote to apostasy is judgment. There is no recovery; there is no remedy for apostasy.
In verse 5 Jude deals with the Israelites who came out of Egypt and were destroyed in the wilderness because they believed not. He then deals with the angels who kept not their first estate. Thirdly, he warns of Sodom and Gomorrah and the judgment on those cities. And fourthly, in verse 9 he speaks of Michael contending with the Devil about the body of Moses. These are not given in historical, chronological order but are in a spiritual order. The starting point of apostasy is unbelief (Israel); unbelief leads to rebellion against God (the angels); rebellion leads to going after strange flesh (Sodom and Gomorrah), which could be natural or spiritual strange flesh; and strange flesh leads to anarchy and lawlessness, apostasy’s final frontier.
In verse 11 Jude gives a further description of the apostates. The Spirit of God pronounces a woe upon them. We are reminded of Cain, a religious man but not a man of faith and of the blood; he hated the godly Abel. Apostates are known for their works but not for their faith. We then are reminded of Balaam, who taught error for reward. We see this today in those who are teaching error for money, for praise, or to make their churches and ministries larger. They will twist and pervert the truth, whatever it takes, in order to gain what they want for their ministries. A third personality is presented in the apostate Korah who gave open rebellion and opposition to the authority of God and God’s appointed leadership. From here Jude lists the characteristics that mark such men (verses 12, 13).
Enoch, the Seventh from Adam
Jude, in the unfolding of his powerful epistle brings us to Enoch. This beloved, godly man lived near the end of an age, an age that closed with the Flood. He walked with God; he pleased God. Enoch represents the true saint, the remnant, the Beloved at the end of the Church age, the Laodicean age. He is the one waiting for the translation, the Rapture; he is the one walking in communion with God, whose life and preaching are pleasing God. He is the one who rose up in his preaching, declaring that the Lord would come 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” (verse 15). Oh, where are the Enoch preachers of our time? Such preachers are those who deal with and call the names of those rising up as apostates of their times.
We are looking for that translation of God’s saints! But while we are waiting for such a departure from this earth, it is imperative for us to be walking with God, pleasing God, and preaching against the apostasy of our times. Such is the true remnant preacher of this Laodicean age. If these characteristics do not mark a man’s preaching, he is part of the contemporary “tare” Christianity of our times.
The Closing Words to the Beloved
In verse 17 Jude gives needed exhortation to the Beloved on how to live amidst apostates. He urges, “Remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is our only hope in these days when the Word of God is being changed, diluted, mongrelized, adulterated, and manipulated to be a supporter of the contemporary and the compromises that are taking place within the institutional church. Yes, we must hold the Word of God fast! Keep reminding ourselves of these words. The scoffers are coming; they are and will continue to scoff the godly life and the biblical standards by which the Beloved live. The tares are in their greatest hour; they dominate the field over the wheat. They do not have the Spirit of God in their services, in their preaching, and in their music (verse 19c). They know how to speak with swelling words to move the crowd (verse 16), to work them into a frenzy; but they have not the Spirit of God! They have learned the professional way and are well-endowed with the showmanship, using high-tech equipment and building mega-church facilities. But they have not the Spirit of God!
How is the Elect, the remnant, to live in such days as described in this epistle? Jude gives us these words:
May God empower His remnant to be resolute, tenacious, and empowered by His Spirit to live through this most deceptive time in Church history. May we rise to fight the good fight of Faith, having on the armor of God, watching unto prayer, and longing for the hour when the wheat and tares will be permanently separated, each to his appointed, eternal place. We may be living in the generation when such a separation and respective harvest will occur. There are those, perhaps even of our own family, who are in the apostate system through ignorance of heart; there is hope for them. These we must deal with in compassion or sometimes by pulling them out of the fire. We must do this with fear, lest any “fleshly” spotting of our own garments affects us. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to help certain ones if our own life or family is placed in jeopardy. We cannot abide in a church that is capitulating to the contemporary, giving itself over to the changes of the times. While believing we will be of a restraint to unbiblical changes, we may be losing our children to the powers of a failing system. From such situations we must separate as soon as possible, turning that church over to God to deal with. Although He is not affected by the apostasy in His workings, we definitely are!
Let us rise above these subtle powers of apostasy that are now swarming like virus-carrying mosquitoes in the churches today. A fresh, daily faith in Christ and His Word is the only way to overcome such powers. We pray for the Beloved of God, but we pray not for the apostasy.