A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The Book of Acts is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles because it’s a record of their experiences in building the early Church. That being the case, the Book of Jude could be called Acts of the Apostates because it’s devoted to warning the Church of the false teachers who were coming to tear it apart.
I’ve sub-titled this series “The Gateway to Revelation” not just because Jude’s letter immediately precedes Revelation in the Bible, but also because the same false teaching Jude warned believers about at the beginning of the Church Age has been invading the Church in our times as well. Paul said a great falling away (apostasy) would occur in the time before the anti-Christ is revealed (2 Thes. 2:3). Since we’re currently witnessing this falling away, we should review Jude’s 1 chapter letter to the Church and see what it says to believers in the end times, too. Let’s begin.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. (Jude:1-2)
The author identified himself as a servant of Jesus and a brother of James, who was head of the Church in Jerusalem in the years between Pentecost and his martyrdom in 62 AD. Since James was a half brother of Jesus, Jude would also have been the Lord’s half brother. Neither James nor Jude were believers until after the resurrection (John 7:5).
Jude was clearly writing to the Church. The Greek word translated “called” in verse 1 means sanctified (set apart) and is from the word for saint. The claim that we are loved by God and kept by Jesus Christ combines John 3:16 (for God so loved the world) and John 6:39 (my Father’s will is that I should lose none of all that He has given me) and serves to confirm that once we’re saved the Lord takes responsibility for keeping us that way (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude: 3-4)
Jude wanted to write about loftier things, but in 65 AD when he wrote his letter, the Church was already being invaded by false teachers, and he felt the need to warn us about them instead. This is something that continues to this day, and like it is today, these teachers were saying that sin doesn’t matter, Jesus wasn’t really God in the flesh, and he’s not the only way to salvation. Back then this was called the gnostic error, one teaching of which held that all Spirit is pure and all matter is evil, so what we do in the flesh is irrelevant to our spiritual life.
This same teaching proposed that God, being spirit, is pure and could never have dwelt in a physical body. Therefore Jesus could not have been divine. They said the Spirit of God came to be with Him for a time but departed before His crucifixion leaving Him to die alone. Followers of gnosticism believed that salvation could not be attained through the death of a man, but rather came through the acquisition of secret knowledge. (The Greek word gnosis means “to know”.) The New Age religions are modern examples that build on this kind of thinking.
The Bible makes a powerful case for Jesus being God in human form, yet there are many “Christians in name only” who deny that. And of course none of the world’s other religions accepts the divinity of Jesus. Also, the doctrine of inclusivism in liberal Christian theology teaches that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. Different religious philosophies have their own unique beliefs and as long as people are sincere in practicing the beliefs of their chosen religion, they can find the way to God. They say it would be arrogant of Christians to insist that ours is the only way, even though Jesus made that very claim (John 14:6) .
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority (literally, their origin) but abandoned their own home (the dwelling place of their spirit)—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude:5-7)
These false teachers think they’re smart, behaving like they do. The way they distort the Scriptures and emphasize their advanced degrees shows them to have a superior attitude, acting as if they’re the only ones who really understand. But we should remember what happened to those who thought they were too smart for God in the past. Paul said, “Although they claimed to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22) and reminded us that God promised the wisdom of the wise will perish and the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. He was quoting Isaiah 29:14 where God had Isaiah lodge the same complaint against the religious leaders of his time. Having learned nothing from history these people will find themselves repeating it, reaping for themselves the same consequences.
Even the angels had to learn this. When some of them thought they could rebel against God and begin a new order, they took on human form without permission, chose human women as wives and produced a hybrid race of super humans (Genesis 6:4). Before long the human gene pool was almost entirely corrupted. But God brought the Great flood and destroyed them all, preserving only Noah and his family to begin again. The angels who led this pre-flood rebellion have been chained in darkness for over 4,000 years, awaiting their judgment. Peter had them in mind when he wrote,
“God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4)
Later, Satan tried to pull this same stunt again, infesting the land God promised to His people with giants to frighten the Israelites away (Numbers 13:30-33). It worked for a while, but God gave His people the supernatural strength and courage to drive them out.
Some are convinced Satan will try this one more time, as the End of the Age approaches. They say beings like the Nephilim of Genesis 6 are returning as extra-terrestrials to help Satan kick God off the planet for good. I have no first hand evidence to prove or disprove this theory, but this I know. The Bible says it has happened before, and there are hints it could happen again. (For our complete study on the Nephilim go here)
And who could deny the current effort to re-create Sodom and Gomorrah in our midst? Using the law of the land to force the acceptance of deviant behavior on the people pits human governments directly against the Word of God and will produce the same response that has followed every preceding attempt of this kind; God’s judgment.
In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them. (Jude:8-10)
Some Gnostics of old believed the body was beyond redemption. Therefore they felt comfortable indulging to excess in every form of perversity. And if you think this kind of thing only happened long ago, just watch a few prime time TV shows. A short generation ago such behavior would have been scandalous, unfit even for public discussion. Now it’s openly celebrated, and admired by many.
In this passage we come closer than any other place in the Bible to understanding why God allows Satan into His presence. Satan is a dignitary, a celestial being at the top of the created order. Even Michael the Archangel, who also occupies a high position in the angelic hierarchy, can not speak disrespectfully to him. With all the harm Satan has done to the creation, at least for now he is still afforded the courtesy due to someone in his position.
But the false teachers of yesterday and today feel free to slander anybody, including God, who they don’t understand. They even rebel against the things they intuitively know are right, suppressing Biblical truths about such things as how our world came into existence, when human life begins, and whether what they call an “alternative lifestyle” is sinful or not.
Speaking of these false teachers Peter said, “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand” (2 Peter 2:10-12).
And Jude continues, Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion (Jude:11).
The way of Cain is to offer the works of our hands as payment for our sins rather than accept the sacrifice of an innocent substitute (Genesis 4:3-4). The Bible says Cain knew what was right, but refused to do what was right (Genesis 4:6). Similarly some preachers today put their flocks in greater bondage than they were before they were saved by teaching that although Jesus died so we could be saved it’s up to us to earn the right to stay that way.
Balaam’s error was to offer prophecies for a fee. He loved the wages of wickedness (2 Peter 2:15). Today we would say, “He’s in it for the money.” Some well- heeled televangelists teach things they know in their heart to be untrue just to coax more money from their gullible followers.
Korah rebelled against God’s chosen one (Moses) inciting the people to disobedience (Numbers 16). Because of him many people refused to follow God’s constituted authority. For the Church today, God’s constituted authority is His word. But I get emails almost every day from people who can’t find a Bible believing church where they live. Others write to bemoan the fact that the church they’ve grown up in is suddenly taking a dramatic turn away from the Bible into things its writers have repeatedly warned us against doing.
So far it’s not looking good for the false teachers whether of Jude’s time or ours. But Jude is far from concluding his rant against them and before we’re finished Peter will have more to say too. Be sure to check in next week for the rest of Jude, Gateway to Revelation. 05-24-11