“Jude” is a Hebrew name and is an alternate of “Judah.” Sort of like Al or Albert, or Mike or Michael. The Greek form of the name is “Judas.”
Two of the 12 of Jesus’ disciples were named Judas – Judas the Zealot, NOT to be confused with Judas Iscariot, who may or may not have been a Zealot.
Naming of the Twelve
John doesn’t list them together, and names 9 of them. He does refer to the Twelve.
One of the names is Judas the Zealot (sometimes called Simon the Zealot,) who is NOT the same person as Judas Iscariot. The Zealots were a 1st century Jewish political movement centered in Judea, which is where Jerusalem was. They wanted to rebel against the Roman Empire. They formally rebelled in the First Jewish-Roman War, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Israel as a nation until its refounding in the 20th century.
We don’t in fact know if Judas Iscariot was a Zealot or not – some commentators think that “Iscariot” means “zealot,” but it could also refer to the tribe “Issachar” or to Judas’ hometown. In any case, Judas the Zealot was different from Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
Then you have another Jude – a brother of Jesus. “’Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?’” (Mt. 13:55)
Roman Catholics believe that these were one and the same person – that Judas was both a member of the Twelve and Jesus’ brother. Protestants believe that they were two different people: Judas the Zealot, who was a member of the original Twelve; and Judas the brother of Jesus, who became a believer in his brother Jesus Christ after the Resurrection. Judas the Zealot became an apostle; the writer of Jude does NOT call himself an apostle. He does call himself the brother of James, another brother of Jesus and a major leader in the church.
No matter what, most Christians believe that Judas, the brother of Jesus wrote the letter that became the Bible book of Jude.
The date is as early as 65 AD, and as late as 80 AD. Jude wrote to counter the heresy that Christians could sin as much as they wanted to because grace abounded even more! Well, I guess.
We talked about this; Jude was most likely one of Jesus’ brothers.
Occasion for the Letter (3-4) and the Change of Subject
He was going to talk about salvation in this letter, but felt he should warn against a dangerous heresy instead
The Reason for the Change: The Presence of Godless Apostates (4)
Jude was fighting not just some beliefs, but the fact that heretics had entered the church and were teaching. People with really bizarre beliefs have always called themselves Christian – one church member I knew was certain that she had been hung as a witch in Puritan New England, and had reincarnated as the Christian she was today.
But Jude is talking about people who are TEACHING the heresies, thus “men” because only men were allowed to be official teachers and church leaders at the time.
We’re not completely sure what heresy it was, but was probably “antinomianism” with a dash of Gnosticism.
Antinomianism is a heresy that believes since Christ replaced the Mosaic Law, everything in the Law was replaced — including the commands against adultery and sleeping around!
\The belief that would become Gnosticism also appeared to be present in this heresy. This type emphasized angels and other spiritual powers as intermediaries between humans and God. God was so pure as to be untouchable and unknowable. They thought that Jesus Christ was either just like God and therefore you couldn’t pray to him, or he was just a man and not to be worshipped.
Egypt, Angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah (5-7)
Unbelievers After Egypt – Num. 16
The Jews who rebelled in the desert during the Exile – probably referring to Korah’s Rebellion. From Numbers 16:1:
Korah son of Izhar was a grandson of Levi himself, and a cousin of Moses and Aaron. As a member of the tribe of Levi he should have known better. Apparently, he thought that he knew best of all, because he with 250 other leaders he rose in active rebellion against Abraham! They confronted Moses and Aaron as a group. “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
Moses falls facedown before the Lord, then sets the test: in the morning, take censers and put coals and incense. The one the Lord chooses will be holy. “You Levites have gone too far!”
Moses condemns the Levites – “God has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.”
Moses called for other Levites who he thought were loyal to him. But they would not come! They accused him of “bringing us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness… we will not come.” That was rich – they were talking about Egypt where they were slaves!
So the next morning, Korah and the two other major leaders – Dathan and Abiram – showed back up at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The 250 men came with them. Each of the three took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it. Then God appeared, which Korah probably did not expect. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’”
God meant everyone who rebelled, which was most of the tribe of Levi. “Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, ‘O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?’”
So the Lord didn’t kill everyone, but commanded them to move away from the tents of the 3 main rebels: Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
Moses said: But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
And the earth split apart under the tents – sadly, not just individual tents but the entire family encampments. The earth split apart, the encampments fell right in, and that was that: because of their sins. The rest of the people ran away yelling that the earth would swallow them too! Not fast enough for the 250 other rebels though; fire consumed them!
By the way – the next day, the whole community was made at Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said. Are you kidding me?! The glory of the Lord appeared again and brought plague with Him! People started dropping like flies, can you imagine?
Quickly Aaron took incense and ran into the crowd to make atonement even as people started to drop like flies. As the dead fell, the living surged towards Aaron to be saved. The Bible says that “The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.”
Note that this was not only sexual sin! That was serious, but Jude was concerned not so much about an individual jerking out and sinning, as he was the fact that men were teaching that sexual sin was a means of worshipping God… which incidentally was a pagan belief of the time. Jude is saying not to ignore that; this teaching is as bad as Korah’s rebellion against God’s servants.
Fallen Angels (6)
Jude doesn’t stop at Korah’s Rebellion. He then links the heresy with the fall of the angels themselves! “Abandoned their own home” appears to have two meanings:
- In rebelling against God, they abandoned their responsibilities. Apparently some were gatekeepers (Uriel), some messengers (Gabriel) some warriors (Michael). Others, as we see in Ezekiel, were in charge of individual cities or nations.
- Abandoned heaven when they followed Lucifer; now they are in darkness and chains, awaiting the Final Judgment. They are still active in the earth – look at the demons that Jesus cast out – but they are mere shades of their former selves, and know that the Day of Judgment is coming.
So these human teachers have abandoned both their responsibilities of teaching the right things, and of following God in the first place.
What are fallen angels?
We are more likely to call them “demons” but they are in fact angels who followed Lucifer and rebelled against God. Interestly, the rebellion tells us that angels have free will like human beings do, but one angel’s sin did not introduce sin into the souls of all angels. Humans are different; Adam and Eve’s sin sundered them from God and caused all of their descendants to be born with sinful natures.
Satan has a following of like beings: the demons who fell with him.
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matt.12:24)
Jesus said, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matt.25:41
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph. 6:12
Other passages describe them in OT and NT. Dan.10:10-20 talks about the angels who fought wicked angels; driving out impure spirits: Matt.10:1.
Demons are spirit beings like angels, and like angels they have the power of speech. We know because they talked to Jesus. Unlike angels, the Bible describes them as unclean spirits, evil, and wickedness/darkness. The Bible also says they are deceitful; not surprising because the serpent in the garden, who was Satan, tempted and deceived Adam and Eve. 1 Tim. 4:1
Also like angels, demons can be invisible or can take on physical form. We know that angels don’t look human in their true forms – winged, on fire, and so on! — but can take on the appearance of people. Maybe demons can too although we’re not as sure about this as angels. We know that angels appeared to Abraham and Peter and John as human, but demons are usually represented in scripture as unclean spirits, locusts, or frogs (Rev..9:7-10; 16:13-16).
Demons aren’t intellectually stupid, although one can argue that rebelling against God is a pretty stupid decision!
They knew who Jesus was.
The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mk. 1:33-34)
They also know what will happen to them.
When Jesus arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mt. 8: 28-29)
Demons tend to promote the worship of physical idols in primitive cultures, and the pseudo-worship of virtual idols in modern cultures. Basically, any time a demon can turn someone’s worship of God into something else, they’ve done a good day’s work.
They also try to stop Christians’ spiritual progress and to leave them open to attack.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12)
Along those lines, they like to promote false teaching so that people no longer believe in Atonement for sin. (1 Tim. 4:1).
It’s possible for demons to possess people the New Testament speaks very freely about it. I don’t believe that Christians can be possessed because of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us, although we can be oppressed. Non-Christians have no such defense and demons can affect them spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
BTW, classic symptoms of possession:
- Manifests superhuman strength.
- Speaks in nonsense syllables or in languages that the victim cannot know.
- Reveals knowledge that the victim cannot know.
- Rage against God, obscene hand gestures, vile cursing, and an aversion to holy symbols.
Sodom and Gomorrah (7)
Here comes the sexual perversion part, which was horrific! S&G were so awful even in the ancient world, that they had a terrible reputation for rape and murder. And the ancient world wasn’t exactly sensitive to this stuff. And so they were utterly destroyed by fire, the great purifier.
It wasn’t just S&G, although that’s how we know the story. The entire fertile plain with all of its cities were destroyed. The “five cities on the plain” where the leading cities of this crop-growing area, which was on the Jordan River plain in southern Canaan, just north of what is today the Dead Sea. It was supposed to be very beautiful.
Genesis 18 sets up the story. Three “men” come to visit Abraham, who recognizes them as angelic visitors and/or the Lord Himself. After telling Abraham that Sarah would bear a son in a year, they talked about S&G. The text makes it very clear that it is God who is talking while the angels and Abraham listen.
20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
At that point, two of the men head down towards Sodom. We know they were angels because in chapter 19, two of them arrive. The Lord stays and keeps talking to Abraham, who bargains for the life of the city. He knows Lot and his family lives there. First he bargains for 50 righteous people, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. Abraham stops there, and the Lord left.
Then in Gen. 19, the Bible switches from calling the two visitors “men” and calls them by their true identity: angels. The two angels arrive at Sodom, still looking human. Lot met them and urged them to come to his house for safety. At first they denied him – they knew after all, that attackers could do nothing to them – but when Lot urged them, the angels agreed.
So the men of the city surrounded the house and demanded to have sex with the men. Lot helpfully offered his virgin daughters instead, although they were engaged to be married. (I never said Lot was a great guy.) So the crowd said no, we’ll take the men and you too! They surged forward, and the angels pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door.
Then they struck the attackers blind!
The angels told Lot to gather up his relatives and get the heck out of Dodge. He visited his prospective sons-in-law but the two men denied him. So Lot got his wife and two daughters – less than the 10 that Abraham had bargained with God for.
By now it was dawn, and the angels urged Lot and his family to leave, or die. Lot begged the angels to let them reach the small village of Zoar without destroying the little town, instead of fleeing farther into the inhospitable mountains. BTW, the word “zoar” means “small,” so you get the point.
Now the text switches from the angels talking to God talking again!
“21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.”
They also warned Lot and his family to NOT look behind them to the destruction of the plain.
And God destroyed S&G by making the entire plain erupt in fire. There were more towns on the plain than just them. Apparently only Zoar survived.
Lot and his family got as far as the village of Zoar when the sun rose, and “the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The Bible says that fire destroyed all human beings and vegetation on the plain, so would have destroyed the animals too. Lot and his family were OK… except for Lot’s wife, who looked back although the angels had warned her not to. She became a pillar of salt.
Early the next morning, Abraham left his tent and went back to the ridge where he had viewed the plain with the Lord yesterday.
28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
Ezekiel: You’re Worse than Sodom!
Interestingly, in Ezekiel 16 God compares Jerusalem to Sodom – and says Jerusalem is worse!
47 [God said to Jerusalem] You not only followed their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. [God was talking about Sodom and Samaria.] 48 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. 49 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
S&G’s sin wasn’t just one thing or the other. It was hideous sexual perversion and violence. It was also not protecting the weak, and breaking trust with the stranger!
BTW, up until the 1970s many historians and theologians thought that S&G were a myth. Then archeologists struck gold – ruined towns and a very large cemetery. The largest of the 5 destroyed towns was a large ruin of a fortified city dating from 2000 BC, now called Numeira. Here’s the kicker: the entire ancient settlement is covered with a thick layer of ash from a firestorm!
The eruption was probably a combination of supernatural and natural events. The Hebrew word for “brimstone,” as in “fire and brimstone,” is gafrit, which describes a highly flammable naturally occurring substance that could be either sulphur or a flammable carbon called “bitumen” [byte-ooh-men]. In fact, bitumen is the substance that the modern world uses to make asphalt! Bitumen can exist as a tar or in rocks, and underlies most of the Jordan plain. If a fire had set it off, the entire plain could have erupted in a massive firestorm — which is exactly what happened.
Cain / Balaam / Korah
Finally, Jude compares these heretical teachers to Cain, Balaam, and Korah. Korah we already looked at. Cain of course murdered his brother out of jealousy. Balaam was a pagan prophet who helped Israel’s enemies against Israel as the Hebrews approached the Promised Land.
Jude lists 6 metaphors for these men in vv. 12 and 13:
- Blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm
- Basically, they’re pimples!
- Within community gatherings, they’re rotting food and sour drink. Yuck.
- Shepherds who feed only themselves
- Perfect examples of the selfish shepherd.
- Both the OT and NT cursed the shepherds who did not care for their flocks.
- Clouds without rain, blown along by the wind;
- Clouds that do not bring rain are useless to the land. They don’t even stay in one place to provide a little shade.
- Autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.
- Autumn trees are losing their leaves and have no more fruit.
- Then uproot them, and they can’t grow leaves or fruit next year. There is not hope for them.
- Wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame;
- Roaring and impressive maybe – but they swamp fishing boats and kill fishermen.
- They don’t deposit good earth because they’re salt water.
- 57:20: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud.”
- Wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
- Stars that do not stay in their proper places in the constellations, but who rebel against the heavenly order.
- Draws parallels between the false teachers and demons, who are consigned to the blackest darkness.
Now for the Good Guys!
Now we reach the section of the letter that we SHOULD obey!
Jude thought he was living in the last times; most of the Church thought the same thing. By the way, thanks to a couple of the Revelation signs I think we’re drawing closer to the end too, but Paul and Jude had a while to wait from the 1st century. Jude’s counsel is still exactly right:
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:17-21)
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
So what does God want us to do?
- Don’t believe people who tell you something different than the gospel. They don’t have the Spirit of God.
- Build yourselves up in your faith by worshipping, reading the Bible, praying, and become more like Christ. Remember God’s love and mercy.
- When someone is in danger of losing their faith by believing false doctrine, then don’t hate or ignore them – reach out the save them! Be merciful but not afraid to tell the truth. Show mercy without thinking that anything goes when it comes to faith. It doesn’t. Only Christ is the pathway to God.
The blessing at the end of the letter, also called a doxology, is beautiful.
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)