New Defender's Study Bible Notes
Introduction to Jude
The little book of Jude is small, but powerful. Jude was a “brother of James” (Jude 1) who in turn was “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). That is, he was son of Mary and Joseph, and half brother to Jesus. He and James are both named in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as sons of Mary and brothers of Jesus.
Jude, like James, did not believe on Jesus as the Christ (John 7:5) until after the resurrection, when apparently all his brothers are suddenly seen with Mary in the upper room with His disciples, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). It is noteworthy that Jude, once an unbelieving brother of Jesus, by the time he wrote his epistle, considered himself merely “the servant [literally ‘bondslave’] of Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). In his closing verse, he calls Jesus “God our Saviour” (Jude 25). Four times he calls Him “Lord” (Jude 4,14,17,21). Truly, his life had been transformed when he finally recognized his earthly brother for who He really was.
Very little else is known about Jude—where he ministered, to whom he was writing, when or how he died. His epistle was evidently written originally to the members of some local church where he had served, and whose members he still loved. The time of writing was probably some years after II Peter was written, for he seems to refer to that book (note Jude 17,18, in comparison with II Peter 3:3; also Jude 6 in comparison with II Peter 2:4, and Jude 11-13 in comparison with II Peter 2:15-17). The apostate conditions predicted by Peter had arrived in full force by the time Jude wrote. This means that the book probably was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Jude forthrightly claims that he was led by God in the writing of his epistle (see notes on Jude 3). He referred to the dispute of Michael with Satan over the body of Moses (Jude 9) and the prophecy of Enoch made even before the great Flood (Jude 14). These two events are known elsewhere only from the pseudepigraphical books known, respectively, as The Assumption of Moses and The Book of Enoch. Jude’s inspired references to these books do not, of course, mean that the books themselves were inspired writings, but rather that certain portions of them did convey authentic histories. They were written some time before the time of Christ, and apparently, whatever their original source may have been, did have at least some true historical records preserved in them. Consequently, Jude gives us certain fascinating insights into the ancient world which had not been inscripturated before.
His main purposes in writing were apologetic and evangelistic. Pagan philosophies had, by his time, so infiltrated the church that the Holy Spirit constrained Jude to urge Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once [for all] delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Then, near the end of his epistle, Jude tells his readers to win some through compassion and others through fear—whatever works (Jude 22,23)! Finally, he concludes with a great doxology, assuring us that Christ will keep His own secure until His return (Jude 24).
1 brother. Jude, as “brother of James,” was also therefore, humanly speaking, a brother of Jesus (see note on James 1:1; also note Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3). However, both James and Jude make no mention of their earthly relation to Jesus, instead calling themselves merely servants of Jesus Christ, not even classifying themselves as apostles (compare Jude 17; note also that “His brethren” were with the apostles in the upper room before Pentecost, but only Matthias was “numbered with the eleven apostles”—Acts 1:14,26). Perhaps the fact that they had been so slow to believe on Him (John 7:5) was a cause of life-long regret and humility.
1 preserved in Jesus Christ. This phrase could be read: “kept for Jesus Christ,” stressing our assurance of salvation. Jude alludes again to this great truth in Jude 24, referring to “Him that is able to keep you from falling.” The one who keeps us, of course, is God the Father Himself, in answer to the prayer of His Son (John 17:11).
2 be multiplied. See note on I Peter 1:2. Jude’s greeting would invoke God’s “multiplication” of mercy, peace and love.
3 needful. The word “needful” connotes a sense of urgency. Jude had been planning to write a straightforward exposition of the doctrines associated with the “common salvation”—that is, the great salvation held in common by all who had been “sanctified,” “preserved,” and “called” (Jude 1). Instead, however, the Holy Spirit constrained and compelled him to write in defense of the faith which even then was under intense Satanic attack.
3 earnestly contend. Used only this once in the New Testament, “earnestly contend” is from the Greek epagonizomai. It was used of athletes intensely agonizing in the grueling training for a coming contest. Jude thus graphically stresses the urgency of defending the faith. Note also Philippians 1:7, 17; I Timothy 6:19-20; II Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:9; I Peter 3:15. The defense of the gospel is no indifferent matter, to be left to a few specialists, but one to which all believers should be trained and committed.
3 the faith. “The faith” is not in reference to the simple trust we place in Christ in salvation, but to the entire body of Christian truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
3 once delivered. That is, the faith that was delivered once-for-all to the saints (that is, to all true believers) for guarding and keeping safe. As Paul wrote Timothy: “Keep [that is ‘guard’] that which is committed to thy trust” (I Timothy 6:20).
4 crept in unawares. These are the “tares” that the devil has sown among the “good seed” (Matthew 13:38-39), teachers who use the terminology of the faith, but distort and undermine the plain teachings of Scriptures.
4 before of old ordained. “Before ordained” (Greek prographo) means literally “written about beforehand,” or “prophesied.” This was done “of old,” possibly referring even to the antediluvian prophecies of Enoch (Jude 14-15). Note also II Peter 2:1-3.
4 lasciviousness. “Lasciviousness” could also be translated “wantonness.” These teachers would not be the legalistic Judaizers, who rejected the doctrine of grace, but rather the antinomians, who abused it, turning the great truth of Christian liberty into license. By undermining the Scriptures, especially the foundational doctrines of creation and consummation, they would encourage compromise with pagan pantheism and all the carnality which accompanies it. This danger is every bit as real today as it was in Jude’s day.
6 first estate. “First estate” (Greek arche) is more often translated “principality” (e.g., Ephesians 3:10; 6:12). A certain segment of the devil’s angels not only followed Satan in his primeval rebellion against God, but also attempted to corrupt all mankind by taking physical possession of “the daughters of men” to produce “giants in the earth in those days” (see Genesis 6:1-4; also Job 4:18; II Peter 2:4). They “left their own habitation” in heaven, and have been confined in the lowest and darkest compartment of Hades awaiting the final judgment. Satan still has a great host of fallen angels (or demons) under his direction (Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:3-9), and these also will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire forever (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10-15).
7 like manner. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah became obsessed with sexual promiscuity, worst of all “going after strange flesh”—that is, blatant indulgence in the unnatural crime of homosexuality, including homosexual rape of visiting strangers (Genesis 19:4-9). The phrase “in like manner,” indicates that the sin of the angels was in the same category as that of the Sodomites.
7 strange. That is, “alien.”
7 eternal fire. The cities were destroyed by fire (Genesis 19:28), but its wicked inhabitants will continue to exist in everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41).
8 filthy dreamers. The translators called these “ungodly men” (Jude 4) by the pejorative “filthy dreamers,” even though the adjective is not in the original, because they defile the flesh in ways similar to those of the wicked angels and the Sodomites. This fact is indicated by the introductory conjunction “likewise.” This word could also be rendered by “nevertheless.” That is, despite the example which God made of the angels and the Sodomites, these dreamers, who know about God’s grace, persist in turning God’s grace into lasciviousness. Our modern age of sexual promiscuity and “gay pride,” especially as now being defended by supposedly “Christian” theological and pastoral leaders, is certainly the most extensive fulfillment of this prophetic description since Jude was constrained to write it.
8 dignities. “Dignities” is more commonly translated “glory” (Greek doxa). In this context, it tells us that these same filthy dreamers are quite ready to blaspheme all that is high and holy in God’s heavenly dominion.
9 Michael the archangel. This fascinating incident is never mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; in fact, the burial place of Moses is said to be known only to the Lord (Deuteronomy 34:6). However, a pseudepigraphical work called The Assumption of Moses, preserved now only as a fragment, seems to have recorded the story, and Jude may either have obtained it from that source or else have received it by direct revelation. In either case, its inclusion in Jude’s inspired epistle is enough to confirm its actual occurrence. Satan evidently wanted the body of Moses for some purpose involving deception of God’s people, hoping perhaps to lead them to doubt God again or even to lapse back into idolatry, worshipping Moses’ body or some idol spirit professing to be Moses. No one knows, but in any case God would not allow it, and He Himself buried Moses in a secret grave.
9 railing accusation. The reason why Jude introduced this event in his epistle was to stress the dangerous impropriety of speaking evil or speaking disdainfully of exalted angels in God’s hierarchy of creation, let alone of God Himself. Michael is one of God’s archangels, yet Satan (i.e., Lucifer) had once been the highest of all, as the anointed cherub over God’s throne (Ezekiel 28:14). Even though he had fallen from heaven, he was still treated with great respect by Michael when contending with him.
9 The Lord rebuke thee. See Zechariah 3:2 for a very similar response to Satan when disputing about God’s high priest.
10 speak evil of. This phrase is the same as “blaspheme.” While professing religion, they still dare to speak evil of God’s Word and to distort and ridicule His revelations about creation, heaven, hell and all the heavenly hosts.
10 brute beasts. They are like unreasoning animals, both in their assumed origin and in their behavior.
11 way of Cain. Like Cain (Genesis 4:2-5; Hebrews 11:4), they reject the doctrine of redemption through the shed blood of a sinless substitute, the Lamb of God.
11 error of Balaam. Like Balaam (Numbers 22–24; II Peter 2:15-16), they use their religious connections not for the honor of God or the spread of His Word, but for their own personal agendas, whether money, pleasure, or power.
11 gainsaying of Core. Like Korah (Numbers 16:1-3,31-33), they reject God’s authority, as expressed in his day through Moses, and in our day through His inspired Word.
12 feasts of charity. Literally, this means “rocks in your love-feasts.”
12 feeding themselves. Literally, “shepherding themselves,” with each man doing what is right in his own eyes for his own purposes.
12 twice dead. In contrast to born-again believers, who are occasionally called “twice-born” men and women, there are some people who already are “twice dead.” That is, not only are they “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), like all other people inheriting Adam’s sin-nature, but they are already participating in the “second death” (Revelation 20:6). These are, from the context in Jude, those apostate teachers who turn “the grace of our God into lasciviousness, . . . denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). They have fully understood the true gospel, and willfully repudiated it, so that, for them, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26, see note; also see notes on Hebrews 6:4-6).
13 blackness of darkness. They are destined both for “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41), in the ultimate lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), yet also for “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), “the mist of darkness . . . forever” (II Peter 2:17). How both can be true we do not know, nor do we need to know. Possibly the final hell is a dark nebula or a black hole, or perhaps the fires are merely symbolic of even worse realities. In any case, the eternal future of such false teachers is indescribably dismal. Great had been their opportunities; therefore great will be their judgment when they misuse them in such deadly ways.
14 Enoch. Just as he may have quoted from a pseudepigraphical book when he referred to Michael and Moses, so Jude here quotes from another pseudepigraphical book of the Inter-Testamental period, the book of the ancient patriarch Enoch. This prophecy does, indeed, appear very early in The Book of Enoch, and Jude’s use of it authenticates the historicity of the prophecy, even though the book itself is not divinely inspired and mostly non-historical.
14 Adam. It is noteworthy that Jude, in his one-chapter epistle, referred not only to Enoch and Adam, but also to Moses, Cain, Balaam and Korah, as well as to the sin of the angels and the destruction of Sodom. Modern apostate theologians would deny the real existence of most or all of these ancient people and events, but Jude by inspiration of God confirmed them all as real, and as providing instruction for us today.
14 saying. It is remarkable that Enoch was prophesying at least five thousand years ago of the second coming of Christ and great judgment against sinners.
16 great swelling words. False teachers are often characterized by grandiose speech, designed to flatter and ingratiate themselves with their audience. The same phrase is used in II Peter 2:18.
17 the apostles. Here Jude assumes that he himself is not one of the apostles of Christ, but he refers to their teachings as of divine authority.
18 mockers in the last time. This is almost a verbatim quotation from II Peter 3:3. Jude quotes this as he would the Scriptures, indicating that very soon after Peter wrote his last epistle (the canonicity of which has long been rejected by false teachers, even more emphatically than most other books of the New Testament), it was known and accepted by the early church as of divine authority. This verse, incidentally, confirms that Jude understood that his epistle in all its urgency would be especially relevant to “the last time.”
19 separate themselves. This “separation” apparently refers to the proliferation of sectarian divisions and cultic offshoots from the true church in the last days. These have indeed multiplied explosively in the past two generations especially. There are now literally thousands of Christian and quasi-Christian denominations, sects, cults, and movements in the world, the vast majority of which have been formed for other than Biblical reasons.
19 sensual. “Sensual” means “self-centered.” Even in evangelical circles today, there is an altogether anti-Biblical promotion of “self-image, “self-esteem,” and “self-love” as supposed panaceas. But such counselors “have not the Spirit” of God, for He exalts Christ, not self.
20 building up yourselves. Note that it is perfectly consistent for Christians to be building themselves up in the faith, having a strong prayer life, and witnessing to others (Jude 22,23) while at the same time contending earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). Apologetics and Christian evidences are mutually compatible with evangelism and Christian growth.
21 eternal life. This is the last of forty-one New Testament occurrences of the phrase “eternal life” or “everlasting life.” The first was in Matthew 19:16, and the central one John 10:28. Thus:
“What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).
“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21).
23 save with fear. Our witnessing should normally be with “compassion” (Jude 22), but sometimes, depending on circumstances, with sober warnings of hell. It should, of course, always be Biblical, truthful, and done in loving concern.
24 able. He is able not only to keep us from falling: He is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Hebrews 7:25). He is “able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21). Finally, He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
24 falling. Compare Psalm 37:24; 56:13; 145:14.
24 faultless. We have, in fact, been chosen “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).
25 God our Saviour. “God our Saviour” is the very meaning of the name “Jesus.”