The Last Days
The Epistle of Jude is small, but very important in its content and message for the days in which we live. Its subject is similar to that of second Peter, but the message is different. Second Peter deals with doctrinal departure; Jude with moral depravity. Of course, denial of the person and work of Christ is automatically followed by a break-down of moral standards. Man becomes a law unto himself. Are not the signs of such conditions evident today’?
In the New Testament Canon, the Epistle of Jude precedes the Book of the Revelation. This suggests a spiritual, moral, and significant order. The conditions described in Jude are those which will prevail in the world immediately preceding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. No sober-minded Christian can help but observe the moral looseness everywhere, even in the Church herself.
It is against this background that we shall consider some important truths which should strengthen our faith and witness, as the chosen of God.
First, let us consider the writer. He opens with these words, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ.” His name is derived from Judah, meaning praise. A careful study of the Gospels reveals he was of the family of the Lord Jesus, but in stating his relationship, he says, “The servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” He places the ties of grace before those of nature, thus revealing the spirit of humility.
Surely, here is a lesson. Too many believers want a place of importance. They aspire to the executive branch of the Kingdom of God instead of being content to be a servant. Let us remember the words of our blessed Lord, “Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth labourers into His harvest” (Matt. 9 : 38 ) .
No higher title can be conferred upon a believer than, “A servant of Jesus Christ.” Think of Job. The Lord said, “Hast thou considered My servant Job?” Think also of Moses; the Lord said of him, “Moses My servant,” an expression that occurs about twenty times in the Old Testament. This title “Servant” is applied to God’s Son about five times in Isaiah; for example, “Behold My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high” (Isa. 52:13).
The Epistle of Jude rests upon two strong pillars of truth, one at the beginning, “Preserved in Jesus Christ;” the other at the end, “Presented by Jesus Christ.” Moreover, we find mercy at the outset and mercy at the close. It is because God is a God of mercy that we are preserved and not consumed. He is called, “The Father of mercies.”
The writer, Jude, uses statements in triplet form. No fewer than eight such groupings occur in his letter. The first embraces the expressions: “the called,” “the beloved,” and “the preserved.”
It has been said, “We always remember our blessings and gifts, but forget our calling.” The calling in the Gospels is largely the outward hearing of the Word of God; in the Epistles, the inward response of mind and heart to God’s message. In Romans, Paul defines this as “Obedience to the faith” (Rom. 1:5). In other places it is expressed as being an “heavenly” calling, a “high,” and a “holy” one.
In Romans 8:28-29, the divine call is linked with the divine purpose, that we should be like Christ. At this point let us distinguish between the purpose of God and the will of God. The former embraces things set in order, completed to the pleasure of God. This can never be frustrated. Alas, to our sorrow, the latter can be hindered.
The divine fellowship of our calling is brought before us in 1 Corinthians 1:9. We are called into this fellowship that we might enjoy Christ. John reminds us that our fellowship is “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
Peter, likewise, tells us that we are called “unto His eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:1) in order that we might be with Christ.
Jude exhorts that we contend for the faith. What is our faith, our creed? The word “creed” comes from the latin “credo” meaning, I believe. This is the faith once delivered unto the saints (vs. 3). For this we must contend. In these days of shallow thinking as to the revelation of God concerning Christ, we must hold fast to that which we believe. Departure from these precious truths is a mark of the last days.
How necessary that we not quail before the enemy!
Not only has the faith been delivered to the saints to hold; it has been declared from the Word, and demonstrated in the lives of devoted men of God. The importance of laying hold of these things is amply emphazied in Paul’s letters to Timothy. Twelve times he warns that young man about following after the things of God and of standing fast in the faith. The Bible reminds us that the day will come when men will deny the faith. Are these days not already upon us?
Creed and conduct go together. Jude has something important to point out: the danger of neglecting to feed our souls on the Word (vs 20); the danger of leaning on our own understanding and failing to consult God; he urges us to pray in the Holy Spirit (vs 20); the danger of harbouring a hard spirit, without love (vs. 21); the danger of failing to show mercy to those who have fallen by the way (vs 22-23).
Jude shows from sacred history the three companies and the three persons with whom God had to deal because of spiritual departure. First, there was Israel, the angels, and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (vs. 5-7); then there was Cain, Balaam, and Core (vs. 11).
Cain refused divine righteousness. He offered a sacrifice of his own choice, but ended with murder. Balaam sought a reward; he was covetous. Core raised his hand in rebellion against God’s Word. All received their desserts. God’s judgment is surely directed against self-righteousness, covetousness, and rebellion.
Jude lays twelve charges against teachers who have apostatized from the truth. Four may be mentioned:
They are waterless clouds (vs. 12). Clouds in Scripture symbolize the divine presence, protection, and pathway. Such was the cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness. God said from the cloud on the Mount of Tranfiguration, “This is My beloved Son, hear Him” (Luke 9:35). Those who digress from God’s way have not the Spirit of God, and are none of His (Rom. 8:9).
They are called fruitless trees. What a contradiction! Judges 9:8-13, records the parable of the trees: the fig, the olive, and the vine all were for God’s glory and man’s pleasure. A fruitless tree is a disappointment. The Lord Jesus teaches a lesson in the fig tree without figs; it was left to wither (Mark 11:21). According to John’s Gospel the vine is only for fruitbearing. That is what God expects of His own.
They also are likened to restless waves, symbol of the world in which there is no peace. The wicked are like the troubled sea (Isa. 57:20), Constantly the waters toss in endless agitation.
Finally, they are likened to wandering stars, stars out of orbit, unable to reflect light. Stars have two functions, to shine, to direct. Such men can do neither. They know not God who gives light to all men, and they have no place where to direct a weary soul.
These people will fill the earth just before the Lord returns. Do we not see their ilk today? Their presence presses upon us the imminence of our Lord’s return.
From this dark picture Jude turns away to treat of what we are and have in our blessed Lord. We are called by God the Father, beloved by Jesus Christ, and preserved by the Holy Spirit, that we might show mercy to the fallen. Let us not forget the warning of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Two Old Testament characters: Moses, the Man of God, and Enoch, the Prophet of God, are mentioned in that order, a moral order. Moses talked with God face to face and Enoch walked with God side by side. Let us in like manner cultivate these two holy exercises for if we do, we shall be well pleasing to the Lord.
The Lord Jesus is not only coming for His own, but He is coming in order to present them to His Father. There are three aspects of the believer being presented to the Father. First, the presentation of the saint himself (Rom. 12:1-3). This should be the experience of every true child of God, “That ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Second, the presentation of the servant and his work (Col. 1:28). It is the desire of every servant of Christ to present the believers matured and not babes tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Finally, there is the glorious presentation by the Saviour. Jude states, “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” (vs. 24). We are to be presented faultless, or without blemish, and, as one writer expresses it, with exuberant joy.
The writer to the Hebrews similarly pictures the Lord saying, “Behold I and the children which God hath given Me” (Heb. 2:13). Paul, too, in speaking of the presentation of the Bride must have had this wonderful scene in mind as he wrote, “That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). Oh, what a day! Our hearts would join with the aged John and exclaim, “Amen, Even so, come Lord Jesus!”