“And Enoch, seventh from Adam, prophesied also as to these, saying, Behold, [the] Lord came amid His holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly [of them] of all their works of ungodliness which they ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners spoke against him” (vers. 14, 15).
This is a remarkable utterance, for which we can only account as being in the power of the Holy Ghost.
There is a traditional book of Enoch in the Ethiopic language, which appears to have been known in a Greek form now long lost. We have not got the Greek, but learned men have endeavoured with all possible zeal to try and make out that Jude quotes from this uninspired book; for the book is evidently one of Jewish tradition, and from internal evidence it would seem that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem. But there is another thing that appears, I think, to anyone that reads it with, not merely learning, but with spiritual understanding, which is, that it differs essentially in this very verse, supposed by some to be quoted from it, from what Jude has here given us by the Spirit of God.
But how was Jude enabled to quote the words of Enoch, who was taken up to heaven before the flood—and nothing can be plainer than that he does give it as Enoch’s words? “Enoch prophesied,” he says. Well, I think that to us who know the power of the Spirit of God there is no real difficulty in the matter. It is all the same to Him to record what took place three thousand years ago as it would be to record what took place at the time the apostles lived. It may be a little more difficult to those who doubt this power, if they do; but we are the last who ought to do so.
The fact is, that no tradition has any value beyond man, but a prophecy necessarily, if it is a true one, comes from God. We have no intimation that it was conveyed in any written form, and it was quite possible for the Holy Ghost to have given it again to Jude. I do not at all venture to say that it was so; we really do not know, but we do know, however Jude got it, that it is divine. We know that it is given with absolute certainty, and that it possesses God’s authority.
There is a peculiarity when it says, “Enoch also, the seventh from Adam.” People have made somewhat of that because they do not understand it. But it is very simple. There was more than one Enoch.
There was an Enoch before this one—an Enoch the son of Cain. I do not see any ground to imagine something peculiar and mystical in this. At any rate, if there be such, I confess I do not know what it is. But I do know that there is a plain and sufficient sense to distinguish this Enoch, and to explain how he could prophesy. We should not look for prophecy in a son of Cain. But that Enoch taken up to heaven in a most remarkable way—more so, in some respects, than the case of any other man; more so than Elijah, though that was a miracle of similar import and character—that Enoch should be the medium of prophecy we can quite understand, for he walked with God, and was not. It was not that he died, but “he was not,” because he was taken up to God; yet before he left the world, he prophesied. We can hardly doubt that he prophesied about the people of his own day. Prophecy always takes its start from what is actually present, and has a hold in the consciences of those then living. The object was to warn of the terrible consequences of evil that was persisted in, and how the evil then appearing would assuredly be judged of God in due time. But the Spirit of God also launches out to the end from the beginning. This is the common character of all prophecy. We find it throughout all the prophets at any rate. I do not, of course, say that it was always the case where the prediction was about something of a merely present nature, but it was so in the cases of those moral pictures which are not bound to any particular time or person. We can quite understand these being made the vehicle for the Spirit of God to look on to the time of judgment when it would not be providential action of the Lord, such as the flood, for instance, but—much more than any acting after that figurative manner—His real personal coming in judgment.
Now, in that Ethiopic book which I have seen, and of which I have the text and English translation by the late Archbishop Laurence, as well as a French version of the work by a very learned Romanist (perhaps a more excellent scholar than the Archbishop I have named, at any rate one more familiar with Oriental languages)—they both agree in what is totally different from what we have here; and what makes it more remarkable is, they agree in asserting an error which is almost universal now in Christendom.
You are aware that the general view of all Christians who derive their thoughts from traditions, creeds, or articles of faith, is that everyone will be judged alike; and this view falls in quite with the natural thought, particularly of the natural man. It seems to them a very offensive thing that those who are really sinners like themselves, but are believers unlike themselves, should not be judged. It seems, to them, since they think very little of believing, a very hard and unrighteous thing that believers should be exempted from a judgment to which others are fast hastening.
But why? Our Lord puts it in the clearest possible manner in John 5. He there describes Himself in two different lights—one as Son of God, the other as Son of man. As Son of God He gives life. And who are they who get life? Does He not tell us that he “that believes on Him hath life eternal”? It is one of those remarkable, short and pithy statements of the Gospel of John. In one form or another it runs through the entire Gospel, I might almost say from the first chapter, though we may not have the literal words, but the same fundamental, substantial sense. And it goes on all through this Gospel, to chapter 20 certainly, if not to 21. And the same great truth re-appears in his First Epistle; that life belongs to him that believes on the Lord Jesus. Just as surely as we inherit death naturally from Adam, so now there is another man who is also God, and being God as well as Man, He has entirely set aside for us the judgment of our sins by bearing it Himself. But that is not all. He gives us this new life which is proper to Himself that we might be able to bear fruit for God now. There must be a good life to bear good fruit. And there is no good life to bear fruit that God counts good except Christ’s life, and all that are of faith have received that life—every Old Testament saint, as really as a New Testament saint. They had faith, they had life, they testified for God. Their ways were holy, which they could not have been had they not a life to produce this holiness; and so it is now.
Well, accordingly, those that believe on Him, the Son of God, receive life. If I reject His divine glory, that is, that He is the Son of God in this high and full sense, then I have not life; because He only gives it to those that believe. But do those who remain in unbelief therefore escape? No, He is Son of man; and this is just where their want of faith broke down. They could see that He was a man, and as they had no faith to see anything deeper, they only regarded Him as Son of man. In this very character the Lord will judge them. He will judge them as the Man Whom they despised. They will behold Him as the Man of everlasting glory. Not merely a divine person, but a Man; and in that very quality—as Son of man—He will judge them.
Now, there would be no sense in, or reason for, judging the believer, even if it were not said by our Lord that the believer shall not come into judgment. Because, what would he come into judgment for? If any go into judgment, it is a reality. It must be so if God were to enter into judgment with even believers. Were they never guilty of sins? And if these sins come into judgment, they cannot escape punishment; and if they are judged, they are lost. But if Christ has borne their sins, where would be the object or wisdom of putting them on their trial after they are acquitted and justified? And we are justified now by faith. All believers are. Every Christian is. It is not a question of peculiar views. I hate peculiar views. Peculiar views are the errors of men. It would be a most shameful thing to count God’s truth to be “peculiar views.” The only thing a Christian should care for is God’s truth. It is only the language of an enemy to count that “peculiar views.” If there are those that try to blacken it and call it peculiar views their blood must be on their own heads. The language is the language of an adversary. We have nothing to do with running after new views or innovations of any kind, and God forbid that we should care for one single thing that is an innovation. I call an innovation anything that is a departure from God’s word.
It is not the antiquity of sixteen or seventeen centuries, but we go to the very beginning, to the apostles, and to the Lord Himself; and there is the source from which we may draw and know for ourselves immediately, just as truly as if we had the apostles here before us. The apostles were certainly not more inspired when they spoke and preached than when they wrote; but it was what they wrote that was made to convey down the stream of ages divine truth with the utmost possible certainty. There is a great advantage in having what is written. You can come and come again. Even if you listened to an apostle, or to the Lord, you might forget. You might slip away from His words and put in some of your own. There is nothing more common than this every day, even with very accurate people; they do not carry absolutely every word. It is too serious a thing not to have the word of God, and it is of the utmost importance that we have it written. What we want is the truth first-hand—from the people inspired to give it—and this is just what we have. And the simplest man is responsible to weigh and consider it.
It may be said he is a weak soul. Well, we are all too apt to think too much of ourselves. Especially, if men have a little ability, they are apt to overestimate what they have. There is nothing more common than this, and nothing more dangerous. Whereas, if a man is really a weak soul and does not think much about himself there is far more readiness to learn; unless he is an obstinate man, who, even though he knows but very little, thinks a deal of himself. There is nothing so dangerous as that, especially when such a one lifts himself up against the word of God. When a man is brought to God, he is made nothing of in his own eyes. Would to God we always stayed there, with the sense of our own nothingness! Would to God that it did not evaporate by our getting peace! There is always a danger of a person forgetting that there was a time when he counted nothing that he thought, said, or felt, was worth thinking about. We are meant to keep that humility always. The best and truest form of real humility is the sense of the presence of God and of the infinite value of the word of God. There is nothing so humble as bowing to God’s authority, there is nothing so humble as obedience—obeying God. And at the same time, nothing gives greater courage, nothing gives greater confidence, nothing gives greater firmness; and this humility is exactly what we want—to be nothing in our own eyes, and to have perfect confidence in God’s word. And faith should produce this in every believer.
Not only, then, does the Lord lay down that the believer, “comes not into judgment,” but He declares what the end will be. Not that there will be only one resurrection. Were there but one resurrection, it might be no wonder that there will be only one judgment; but to confirm the fact that there will be no judgment of the believer—no sitting in judgment on him to decide his lot for eternity—there are two resurrections spoken of in that very same passage in the fifth chapter of John; and I would commend that chapter to anyone who has not duly weighed it. There it is shown that there will be a “resurrection of life” for those that have life for their souls already; there will be a “resurrection of judgment” for those that have not life but sins, and not merely sins but unbelief, the refusal of that life. They rejected the Son of God! For them there is judgment, and for them there is a special resurrection at the close of all. For those that have life now, in the Son, there is “the first resurrection,” a life resurrection. Other saints, too, will share in this, for though not at the same moment, their resurrection, nevertheless, will have this character. All that are Christ’s who are in their graves when the Lord comes will rise together, and the living that are on the earth at that time will be changed, while others who die afterwards will follow, as we learn from the book of Revelation, which is my reason for guarding the statement. They all have a resurrection of life, except those that do not die, and will be brought into the change without resurrection; but their change will be equivalent to resurrection, so that it may be all called, in a certain way, a “resurrection of life.”
But there is also a “resurrection of judgment” for all those that despise Christ, for all that are sinners against God, for all who have refused the Saviour, from the beginning of the world up to that time; and the resurrection of judgment is at the end of all time. Not so the resurrection of life; and the reason why it is not is this—that those who rise in the resurrection of life rise to reign with Christ, before the winding up of all things. The wind up of all will be after all the ages have run their course, so that the last sinner may be included in that awful resurrection—“the resurrection of judgment.” We need not call it a “resurrection of damnation,” because the word used is distinct from that. In effect it comes to that, but it is not the force of the word. It is always better to stand to the exact word of God, even if we do not understand it. We owe it honour and reverence, whether we understand it or not. His word must be right, it must be wise and the best, the only one that is really good and reliable absolutely.
This may seem a long preamble, but it is necessary, perhaps, to make the force plain of what I am going to remark here.
In the spurious book of Enoch, from which the learned people maintain that Jude quoted, the doctrine taught is that the Lord “comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon them.” There you see is the error that betrays the devil in the forger, for from this very verse, I do not in the least doubt that that document has been forged. It has every mark of having been written, subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, by a Jew who still buoyed himself up with the hope that God would stand by the Jews.
And so He will in the end, but in a way totally different from what he, the writer, supposed. For there is no true acknowledgment of Christ. He is simply acknowledged as the Messiah from a Jewish point of view, but there never will be deliverance for the Jew in looking for the Messiah according to their thoughts. It is the Messiah of God, the Anointed of Jehovah, the true Messiah that came, and they rejected Him. But when He comes to deliver them by and by they will be brought to say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” They will then give up all their unbelief, they will welcome Him, and He will come and deliver them, and He will save them out of all that strait of trouble in which they will then be.
But He will not judge His own people. He was judged for them, He bore their judgment on the tree, and He will never judge them. Nor is there one word in the Bible—Old or New Testament—that insinuates in the most distant manner that the Lord will inflict judgment on His own people. That He will judge His people is a common thing in the Old Testament. But that will be, as a King, the judgment of their difficulties, their disorders if there should be any; and He will also vindicate them from their enemies. It is in this sense that He will judge His people.
Moreover, God carries on a moral judgment now in respect to His children. “If ye call on the Father, Who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear.” This is still going on. The Lord dealt with the Corinthians in this way. When they were in such a bad state and profaned the table of the Lord, coming boldly and taking the bread and the wine as if they had been in a good state, the Lord laid His hand on them—some were sick, some fell asleep—were removed by death. All this was a temporal judgment. It is what the Lord does now, and this judgment is for our good and profit.
We see the same thing in a family. It is the judgment that a father carries on in his family, or any person charged with the care of youths put under him—young persons of either sex. Well, there is a judgment for their good. This is a totally different thing from what is called in John 5 a “coming into judgment.” It is even a different word employed—a different form of the word. From Psalm 143 it is evident that the Old Testament saints knew better than that. At any rate, the Spirit of God gave them better knowledge, for there it says, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” If God were to enter into judgment with the believer it would be all over with him, because even the believer himself would be bound to say, I do not deserve to be saved. And if God were to look at all the faults in a believer’s life He might say, if that is what I have to look at, I have no reason to save you, you do not deserve it. But the ground of a believer’s salvation is not that he deserves it, but that Christ deserves it for us. Christ has completely met all God’s nature, and, further than that, He has borne all our sins and iniquities in His own body on the tree. God will not judge them again as if they had not been sufficiently borne, as if the judgment at the cross were not an adequate one. God will never say that about what Christ endured, and this is just what faith lays hold of. Therefore, the uniform doctrine of the Bible—of both Old and New Testament—is this, that believers are not to come into that future judgment which the Lord will execute at the close of all things; but because we now have life, and are God’s children, He watches over and cares for us, and carries on a moral judgment; and besides this, the Lord Jesus carries on now a judgment of the church.
We find, besides the Father judging individually His children, that the Lord Jesus takes up the things that pertain to His name among those that are assembled together. He is Head of the church, and He has a watchful eye that the things that are done under His holy name should be real, should not be hypocritical, that His name should not be profaned. If our ways are unreal, and we go on badly, He deals with us in the way of discipline, and for the very reason “that we should not be condemned with the world.” There you have the reason. If He did not do so, you might raise a question as to whether they would be lost.
Now then, the author of this spurious Book of Enoch understood not a word of all this. He was not a believer. He was a false man; he would never have forged if he had not been. He was a forger of the worst kind. No forgery is so bad as that which pretends to give us the word of God. It is very bad to be deceitful in anything, but if deceit is carried on in the things of God there is none that is worse in its consequences, there is none that more distinctly dishonours God. And that is the case here.
“Behold, the Lord Cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to—“ what does scripture say? to “execute judgment upon all.” This is not the saints. The “all” are totally distinct from the saints. The saints had been caught up, and now come with Him Who executes the judgment on all the sinners to be found in that day. “To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all”—to make it perfectly plain who are meant—all “that are ungodly among them.” There it is, to obviate any argument, for there are people who are not great in the truth who are always ready for an argument! Here we see it is “to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them” (that is, these “all”) “of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed.” And not only ungodly deeds; there is another thing that the Spirit of God attaches great importance to—“hard words which ungodly sinners spoke against Him,” words that gainsay God’s mind, words that say the thing that is false of God. Job’s friends did that. Job himself bowed to God. He had not many words, he made a confession of his folly, he said the thing that was right. But his friends had not spoken the thing that was right of the Lord. I do not think that the Lord was putting the stamp of His approval in the same way on all that Job said. He often spoke haughtily, and unhappily about God, and fretted about himself, but the Lord does not refer to that. Job broke down and confessed his nothingness. His friends did not break down. Job did, and, in consequence, Job was restored, and had to pray for those, his friends, who were not as yet restored.
But here it is plain that ungodly words are just as bad in their own way as ungodly deeds. Sometimes an ungodly word does more harm than an ungodly deed. For instance, an ungodly deed might be an act of unrighteousness in a man, but an ungodly word might be a slurring of Christ. This is worse, and particularly if people receive it. People are quite ready to cry out against an ungodly deed. Even worldly men can very well judge ungodly deeds, and the same people would be deceived by hard and ungodly words against the Lord and His grace and truth.
In this Book of Enoch to which I have referred there is not a word about the “hard speeches.” This shows that the author was simply a natural man; a man who, no doubt, had this phrase before him, but he did not understand it. He evidently did not understand either about the saint or about the sinner. He did not understand about the saints, because he made them objects of judgment as well as the ungodly. It is just like the theologians now. They do not believe what I am now saying. But there is one word, in leaving that subject, that I wish to add. “We shall all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ.” Everything, good or bad, will come out, for the believer as well as for the unbeliever. But that is a very different thing from judgment. This is not called judgment, but “manifestation,” which is not the same thing as judgment. Manifestation of all our ways will be a very good thing for us. How apt we are to overrate ourselves! There may be something that we perhaps flattered ourselves about while we were here alive, and we never saw how foolish we were till risen from the dead and standing before the judgment seat of Christ. There it will all be manifested. Where we thought that we were wise we shall see that we were very foolish. And so in everything where we may have allowed ourselves a little latitude and tried to excuse ourselves, we shall there be obliged to acknowledge it as all wrong. This is for our good. It is a blessing to do it in this life, but it will be all the fullest and richest blessing there. All will be out then. Then we shall know even as also we are known. We shall have no thought different from God’s about a single thing in all our lives. But this is not judgment. Judgment is where a person stands to be tried, and to be convicted of his guilt. This will be the case with everyone who has not been justified by the Lord Jesus Christ and His incomparable work on the cross.
But there is a second point where this forger could not copy the text before him aright. He only speaks of “ungodly deeds” Hard, ungodlily spoken “words” to him did not seem of very much account, so he left out the ungodly “words.” The first part seemed the only right thing to him. Consequently, he mutilated the scripture. He could not even copy it truly, and thus he has given us a false version of it.
In other words, Jude never got his prophecy of Enoch from a mere tradition, or from this book at all. He got it from God. How, I do not pretend to say. But he did.