In the body of the Epistle we have already had the coming of the Lord in judgment, that is to say, bound up in the awful departure from the truth which was to be found in the Christian profession. This is what many souls are very unwilling to face. It is natural for man to think that everything must be progressive—the truth as well as all else. No one ever drew that from the Bible, and every part of the Bible, from the first book till the last, shows us man set in a place by God, and abandoning it for Satan. And there is the same story here. No doubt it is unspeakably terrible to find that what bears the name of Christ should turn out worst of all. I need not say the guilt of it is entirely man’s, and that the secret source of that evil is still Satan, as Satan is always behind the scenes in his antagonism, not only to God, but more particularly to the Lord Jesus. He is the One that Satan hates, and hates most of all because He became Man to glorify God where man had failed, and as Man to glorify God even about sin. Therefore, there is, what we might call, a natural antagonism in the devil, being what he is, against the One Who is to crush him at last. He well knows this, and there will come a time when, as he knows, he will have but a short time. That time has not yet come, but it is coining, and coming fast.
So Jude introduces the coming of the Lord in a very remarkable manner—not by a new prophecy, but by the recovery to us of one of the first prophecies ever uttered, and, certainly, the first prophecy that took shape, the ordinary shape, which gave its character to all others that follow. For nothing could be more in the prophetic character than these words: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam (to distinguish him from the Enoch who was the son of Cain) prophesied of these, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, 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 (what people think little of) their hard words which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” “Words” are the common expression of man’s iniquity, because he cannot do all that he would like to do, but there is nothing he cannot “say.” Consequently, it is said, “For by thy words Thou shalt be justified, and by thy words Thou shalt be condemned.” This character of evil, so far from being a light thing, is one which is presented with the utmost gravity, and that by Enoch before the flood: and it is nowhere else preserved. Here, thousands of years afterwards, Jude was enabled to disclose this to us—by what means we do not know. The Holy Ghost was perfectly capable without using any means. Whether there were any, we know not, but we know that here it is, and that this is the certain truth, not only of God, but through Enoch before he went to heaven.
But there is another connexion with Enoch that we have now to look into, in the verses that close the Epistle. This is, that we may regard a latent connexion in them with the blessed manner in which Enoch was taken out of the scene altogether. Now, this fell to Jude and not to Peter. I have already compared the very great marks of distinction between Peter’s and Jude’s treatment of these very cases. Peter’s view is purely as a question of unrighteousness, and he looks also at the teachers as being the most guilty parties in that unrighteousness—generally done for gain, or fame, or for some earthly motive of the kind that is not of God. Jude looks at it in a still deeper light; for he does not make so much of the teachers. The awful thing to Jude was that the church, that the body of the saints, who ought to be the light of God—the heavenly light of God in a world of darkness—that they were to become the seat of the worst evil of Satan; and this through letting in (no doubt, by carelessness, by lack of looking to God) these corrupters. That is his point of view. Not so much unrighteousness as apostasy. There is nothing so terrible as apostasy. In the case of unrighteousness it might be merely that of men going on with their badness. But apostasy always supposes that people have come out of their badness professedly, that they have received the truth professedly, that they have professedly received grace from God in Christ the Lord, and have turned their back upon it all. There is nothing so bad as that. So that you see, if there were not the gospel, and if there had not been the church, there could not have been so bad an apostasy as that which Jude contemplates here, from first to last.
We have, first of all then, as I have already shown, the trace of that apostasy as it presented itself to Jude by the Holy Ghost. And he takes his great figures of it from Israel, which after it was saved became the enemy of God, and fell under judgment. Peter does not say a word about that; he looks at merely wicked men; consequently, he is more occupied with the evil that brought on the deluge. Jude does not say a word about the deluge, because there was no question of a people being saved. There was a family—a few individuals—but there was not a people. Jude looks at the church, and compares the church getting wrong and losing everything after, having apparently gained everything: according to the picture of Israel, saved out of Egypt, and nevertheless, all coming to nothing.
We see how beautifully the figures employed and the illustrations used are all perfectly in keeping with the great differences between the two Epistles of Peter and Jude. And I mention it again, as I have already done, as a proof of the blindness of men in our day, in what they call “higher criticism.” They will have it that the one Epistle is only a copy of the other. Why, they are perfectly contrasted the one with the other. There are some points, of course, that must be common—the wickedness of man, the grace of God, the truth of God. All that must be common to the two Epistles.
But the character of the truth in the one case is simply, men corrupting righteousness into unrighteousness—that is Peter. In Jude it is men, who were blessed by the revelation of grace, turning it into licentiousness, men who had not merely the authority of God, but the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter does not say a word about this. It is God’s authority. Even the Lord is there looked at as Master—a Sovereign Master—not in the attitude of “our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude adds that. So Noah is the great figure in Peter; whereas Enoch, and not Noah, is the figure before us in Jude.
Now, I ask, how could the wit of man ever have done this? Even when people have read the two Epistles, many Christians have not noticed these differences, yet there they are. What learned men see is the apparent resemblances between the two. But that is an altogether unintelligent way of reading anything. Because, even if you look at all the men of the world, well, they all agree in being men, but just think how foolish a person must be who can see no difference between one man and another because they are both men! That is just the way these learned men talk. They see no difference between Peter and Jude, the one copied the other! Whereas the striking thing is that, although they both go over the same ground, they look at it in different ways—both full of instruction, yet such instruction as only the Holy Ghost could give.
Oh, how solemn when we read this last Epistle, which bears upon the apostasy of Christianity, or rather of Christendom, of those that were introduced to the richest blessings of God’s grace and truth in Christ, yet turning to be the bitterest enemies of it (not only abandoning it, but) treating it with contempt and disdain, and with hatred to the last degree.
This is exactly what we have in the middle of the Epistle. We saw the characters that it takes, particularly Cain, Balaam, and Korah—the beginning, middle and end, I might say. The unnatural brother that hated, not a mere man only, but his own brother, and slew him. The bitterest enemies of the faithful are always those who profess to be faithful and are not. There is no bitterness so deep as that of an unworthy bearer of the name of Christ. Well, that is Cain. Not a word of this in Peter. That belongs to Jude, and is here.
Then Balaam appears in Peter because he is a false prophet that figures the false teachers, who are more the thing in Peter, but not in Jude; for here it is the saints, the body of the saved ones—at any rate in profession. That is what alarmed and shocked him. And he puts it forth for us, that we might now understand it, that we should not be too much perplexed by any of these terrible things which may break out at any time in our midst. There never was a more foolish idea, perhaps, entertained by some of us, that whoever might go wrong this could not happen amongst those called “Brethren.” Oh, foolish Brethren, to flatter themselves in such a way as that! Why you, we—for I take my place along with you in it altogether—we are the persons most liable to have the highest flown expressions and pretension to the greatest piety, while there may be an enormously evil thing going on. How are we to judge of such things? By the word of God. And you will always find that those that are carrying on in that way slip from the word. They do not want the word. They want something new, something that will go on with the times, something that will make the “Brethren” more popular, something that will get bigger congregations, and all those things that are flattering to human vanity; the consequence is they are naturally afraid of the word. No wonder. No one ever quarrelled with the word of God, if the word of God did not condemn them. Every person who loves the word owes to it all his entrance into blessing; he derives all from that precious word and that precious word reveals Christ. Consequently we should not be occupied about pleasing others and about their work, but with Christ. And we want all God’s children also to be occupied with Christ as the only ground of any solid and sure peace.
In Enoch’s prophecy we may observe once more that it is not exactly “the Lord cometh,” but, “Behold, the Lord came.” This manner of speaking is quite usual in the prophets, and that is why they are called “seers.” What they described they saw as in a prophetic vision. John saw all the various objects which he describes in the Revelation. He saw the heaven opened, and the Lord coming out, and the throne set. But it does not mean that all this was accomplished then. He saw it all before it took place. So did Enoch. He saw the Lord come; and he presented it in that way. In Isaiah 53 we see the same thing. “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” It does not mean that there was any doubt about its being all future; but that the prophet saw it before his eyes, the eyes opened by the Holy Spirit. It is the same thing here. The Lord is seen at the close of the age coming with ten thousands of His saints to take judgment, to inflict judgment on these apostates; and the Spirit of God here intimates that the same family likeness of departure from God has been going on since the days of Enoch, and that it was to go on, not only in Jude’s day, but in the future till the Lord comes. It was all one in character—hatred of God. And you see how entirely this falls in with what I have been saying, that man always departs from God. It is not only that he is rebellious, not only that he behaves himself badly, not only that he violates this and that, but he turns his back upon God altogether and His truth. This is apostasy, and the spirit of it is already come. It will, come out thoroughly, and then the Lord will come in judgment.
But now the hope! What is that? Well, it is implied in what we saw. “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of His saints.” The question is, How did they come with Him? If the Lord comes with His saints, He must have come before to fetch them to Himself, and this is just what He will do. But that is a thing entirely outside the prophetic introduction of the Lord’s coming. The Lord’s coming for His saints is not a matter of prophecy at all. It is a matter of love and hope; we may say of faith, love and hope. They are all in full play in the wonderful prospect that grace has opened out before our eyes. Therefore it is that the Lord does not introduce this prospect except in a very general way, in any of the Gospels so much as He does in John: “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:2, 3).
There is nothing about prophecy in that passage. It is future, but its being future does not make it prophecy. It is an abuse of terms to think that prophecy is essentially bound up with judging a wrong state of things and replacing it with a better. But in this case, as in John 14., the Lord, when He comes to put us in the Father’s house, does not judge a wrong state of things. It is consummating His love to the dearest objects of His love, not merely on earth but for heaven; and it is in that way that the Lord speaks. It is the same thing in the Revelation. After He has done with all the prophetic part, He presents Himself as “the bright and the morning star.” And when the church has that before her, we find a new thing, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” That is not prophecy; that is the church’s hope, and it is strictly the church’s hope. Because when you say, “The Spirit and the bride,” it is not merely an individual, it is the whole—personified—of the saints that compose the bride. “The Spirit and the bride! “What a wonderful thing that the Spirit should put Himself at the head of it! “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” It might have been thought, Oh! that is only a sanguine hope that the bride has got. But, no; you cannot talk about anything sanguine in the mind of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” Hence you see that the great object of the Lord, in that close of the Revelation, was to show that you must not mix up the hope of the Lord’s coming to receive us to Himself with the accomplishment of prophecy. The hope is entirely apart from any prophetic events. It is not in the seals, it is not in the trumpets, still less is it in the vials. It is after all these things that the Spirit of God, in the conclusory observations, gives there what the Lord had given, when Himself on earth, to His disciples. The Spirit of God takes up there what was suited to the then condition of the church. The church then knew that she was “the bride”of Christ. This had been clearly shown in more than one chapter of the Revelation. In chapter 19., the marriage of the Lamb had come, and the bride had made herself ready. That could not be the earthly bride. How could the earthly bride celebrate a marriage in heaven? And how could the heavenly bride celebrate it there unless saints composing it had been taken there before? This is just what I am about to come to.
Well, then, this coming of the Lord, which is “our hope,” is exactly what Jude takes up here in the closing verses.
“But to Him that is able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you with exultation blameless before His glory; to an only6 God our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord7 [be] glory, majesty, might, and authority, before all times,8 and now, and unto all the ages. Amen” (vers. 24,25).
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling.” How appropriate when thus presenting the dangers, the evils, the horrible iniquity of apostasy from all Christian grace and truth that might have the effect of greatly dispiriting a feeble soul! No one ought even to be dispirited; not one. “Now unto Him that is able to keep” clearly refers to every step of the way, and there is power in Him to keep. It is we who fail in dependence. Never does He fail in power to preserve. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless.” Where? “Before the presence of His glory.” Where is that? Is not that the very glory into which the Lord has now gone? And does not He say, “that where I am there ye may be also”? Here we find that the hope of the Christian and the hope of the church is entirely untouched by all the ruin that had come in. Spiritual power remained intact. And not only that: this glorious, blessed hope remains for our consolation and our joy in the darkest day.
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you without stumbling and to set you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” There we have what falls in not with Peter, but with Jude. Jude, of course, entirely agrees with Peter, and confirms Peter as to the judgment that is to fall on those that were not only unrighteous but apostate. But then Jude does not forget that there are those that are true, that there are those that are faithful, that there are those that are waiting for Christ, that there are those that are even more appreciative of the blessing because of the unbelief of man. Therefore it is that he brings in this present power which depends entirely on the Holy Spirit’s presence to keep us; and, further, he speaks of the blessed hope depending upon Christ’s coming to receive us to Himself, “and to present us faultless.” That will only be because we are glorified; that will only be because we are like Himself. He was the only One intrinsically faultless, and He is the One Who, by redemption, and then also by its accomplishment for the body—for redemption now is only as far as the soul is concerned, but when He comes it will be for the body as well—will present us faultless both in soul and body “before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
6 σοφῶ (wise) is omitted by אABC Vulg. Copt. Arm. AEthiop. and Syrr. Vv.—T. R. inserts with KLP and many cursives.
7 διὰ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρἱου ἡμὧν אABCL Vulg. Copt, and Syrr. Vv.—T. R. omits with K. P.
8 πρὸ παντος τοῦ αἰῶνος אABCL Vulg. Copt. Arm. and AEthiop . Vv. —T. R. omits with KP and most cursives