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Bible: What Does Jude Teach Us About Apostasy?
The Apostle Jude
The Body of Christian Truth
The Epistle of Jude
Despite indicating that he is the Lord’s half brother by naming James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, as his “brother,” Jude first identifies himself as a slave of Jesus Christ (v. 1a; cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). He writes this short epistle to ordinary believers whom God had (1) summoned to salvation through Christ, (2) set apart for Himself—the NU substitutes “beloved” for “sanctified”—and (3) preserved for Christ at the Rapture (v. 1b). Jude prays that God might multiply His “mercy, peace, and love” to them (v. 2).
Addressing these believers as “beloved,” Jude initially wished to write a treatise about the salvation which they all shared in Christ; however, events in the Church warranted him to change his topic into an exhortation about fighting (figuratively speaking) to preserve the body of truth that God gave to the Church (v. 3). He warns them about false teachers who have secreted themselves among the brethren—ungodly men whom God identified and condemned “long ago” (v. 4a). These individuals pervert the gospel in two prominent ways: (1) they turn God’s grace into licentiousness (“lewdness,” NKJV); and (2) they deny the Lordship of Jesus (v. 4).
[When did God mark them out for condemnation? Was it from eternity past? These apostates must have told their converts that grace meant that they were at liberty to live as they desired, for God had obligated Himself to forgive them].
Loss of Salvation?
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Old Testament Apostates
By way of reminder, Jude now hearkens back to OT examples to show how God dealt with apostates in those days (vv. 5-7).
First, he relates how Yahweh destroyed disbelievers who left Egypt with believing Israel (v. 5).
[Ryrie’s note suggests that these apostates lapsed; God physically saved them out of Egypt and then destroyed them (New Testament Study Bible 453).
Are these believers who apostatized and lost their salvation, believers who sinned a sin which led to their physical death, or unbelievers who were physically delivered out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness because of their rebellion against the LORD?]
Second, Jude next mentions the pre-Flood angels who cohabited with women (“did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode”), whom God has incarcerated until the day He pronounces their eternal doom (v. 6; cf. Gen. 6:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:4).
[When does “the judgment of the great day” take place? Is this the Great White Throne Judgment, or some other “great day”?]
Third, the sexually immoral inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah exemplify the kinds of people who will suffer a fiery, eternal punishment (v. 7).
Michael the Archangel
Jude returns to his discussion of the present-day apostates, whom he characterizes as dreamers who
(1) dishonor their bodies,
(2) set themselves up as lords by expressing contempt for authority figures, and
(3) malign leaders, both angelic and human (v. 8).
[About what did they dream?]
Obviously, the exalted archangel Michael did not go as far as apostates do in their reactions to "leaders."
Rather than revile Satan when the two argued about the disposition of Moses’ body, Michael deferred to the LORD’s judgment on the matter (v. 9; cf. the pseudepigraphical The Assumption of Moses).
Jude remarks that these false teachers denigrate the doctrine that they do not comprehend, and corrupt themselves with instinctive knowledge as they behave like beasts (v. 10).
[To what instinctive knowledge (“whatever they know naturally,” NKJV) is Jude referring?]
The Way of Cain
Using the evil deeds of three OT characters as examples of the apostates’ conduct, he pronounces doom upon them:
(1) Like Cain, they think that they can determine their own way of salvation (cf. Gen. 4:1-12);
(2) They seek “filthy lucre” as did Balaam (cf. Num. 22-24); and
(3) They resemble Korah in his rebellion against God’s authority (v. 11; cf. Num. 16).
Jude now waxes poetic with several descriptive metaphors of these apostate teachers (vv. 12-13).
First, they hide themselves among the crowd during the church’s agape feasts, caring only to eat and drink greedily (v. 12a).
[What does Jude mean by “hidden reefs”?]
Second, like “clouds without water” and “late autumn trees without fruit,” these teachers fail to keep their promises to provide refreshment and nourishment; they also change their position on doctrine according to the prevailing societal opinions (“carried about by the winds”) (v. 12b).
Third, they live restless, morally bankrupt lives (“raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame”) [v. 13a].
Fourth, they travel from church to church, finding no niche; eternal darkness will be their future abode (“wandering stars”) [v. 13b].
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The End of Apostates
The apostle next refers to a prophecy of Enoch (found in this patriarch’s non-canonical book) which describes the end of apostates at the Revelation of Christ (“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment on all . . .”) [v. 14].
Stressing the moral turpitude of these sinners—he uses the term “ungodly” four times—, Enoch predicted that God would surely convict them at that time (v. 15).
Jude characterizes them as complaining fault-finders, as people conducting their lives according to their own inordinate desires, and as boastful flatterers seeking ways to gain an advantage over others (v. 16).
Jude exhorts those beloved of God to recall the spoken messages of Jesus’ apostles which predicted that people who mock the gospel and order their lives according to their own ungodly desires would appear on the scene “in the last time” (v. 18).
A worldly and divisive spirit characterizes apostates--people who are devoid of the Holy Spirit (v. 19).
The “beloved,” on the other hand, the apostle encourages to keep themselves strong in Christ by holding fast to their “most holy faith,” praying in the Spirit, and looking forward to the Rapture when they would receive Jesus’ mercy leading to eternal life in glory (vv. 20-21).
He tells them that they should also show compassion (“mercy”) toward those who doubt, and seek to save those nearest to damnation--those whose very clothes reek with the pollution their sinful nature causes (vv. 22-23).
Jude closes his epistle with a thrilling benediction.
Christians should direct praise toward their omnipotent, wise Savior—the One who not only can prevent them from falling down, but who can also present them blameless before His glorious presence.
This God Jude desires should receive all honor and eternal dominion (vv. 24-25).
Study Questions for Jude
1.What relationship did Jude have with James and Jesus, respectively?
2.To whom does he write this short epistle?
3.About what topic did Jude originally plan to write?
4.To what topic did he change?
5.In what two ways did Jude see false teachers perverting the gospel?
6.What OT examples did the apostle use to show how God dealt with apostates in those times?
7.How does Jude characterize present-day apostates?
8.In what non-canonical writing does Michael’s confrontation with Satan over Moses’ body appear?
9.Whose evil deeds does Jude use as examples of the kind of conduct apostates display?
10.What descriptive metaphors does the apostle use to explain these apostates?
11.What non-canonical book does Jude use to describe the end of apostates?
12.What term does he repeatedly use to emphasize the moral status of these sinners?
13.In what other ways does Jude characterize them?
14.How does Jude encourage the beloved to keep strong?
15.Interact with the apostle’s benediction.
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