Harry Whittaker

9. Apostolic Warning (v17-19)

It is useful at this point to pause and note the shape of the main part of Jude's epistle.

Vv. 17-19 recapitulate the development of the longer main section, vv. 5-16:

vv. 5, 17
Inspired warning
vv. 5-11 (O.T.), vv. 17,18 (N.T.)
vv. 12-16, 19

In the section now under review there is also an impressive ABAB structure:

v. 16:

v. 17:
But ye....
v. 19:

v. 20:
But ye....

But Jude's warning directs his readers to "the words spoken before by the apostles". The close coincidence of vv. 17,18 with the familiar passage in 2 Peter 3:2,3 is not to be missed, and calls for explanation. The fact that Jude refers to an apostolic warning makes it near certain that he is referring to 2 Peter, and that he is in fact quoting from that epistle almost verbatim (but it is interesting to note how he slips in is own favourite objurgation: "ungodly").

The way in which reference is made to the apostles has been made the ground for a confident conclusion that Jude himself was not an apostle. But this is very unsure. If a political spokesman were to announce: 'The Government has decided....', would that necessarily, or at all, imply that the speaker was not a member of the Cabinet?

Actually the same precarious argument can be used against 2 Peter: "The commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles" (3:2, R.V.). Certain modernists would be happy enough to infer here that therefore 2 Peter was not written by an apostle but by a clumsy forger who forgot himself for the moment. But those who believe that 2 Peter was written by Peter will appreciate the force of the argument.

In any case, Jude's continuation: "how that they told you...." is fairly strong as an indication that Jude was himself an apostle, for otherwise would he not have written: "how that they told us...."?

But if Jude was referring to 2 Peter 3, why "the words (rhemata, spoken words) spoken before by the apostles"? Why not "words written" in 2 Peter?

It may be that Jude knew Peter to be in the habit of using an amanuensis. It is probable (1 Pet. 5:12) that Silvanus was the apostle's secretary for the first epistle. In that case "spoken" would not be altogether inappropriate.

Another possibility is that these to whom Jude wrote had had Peter personally among them, speaking the very warnings which he later repeated in his letter.

Yet another interesting enquiry is why Jude should say "apostles". If he were referring to Peter explicitly, would not a singular noun be more appropriate here?

But Peter was not the only one to have published warnings of this nature.

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly (i.e. through Paul or one of his colleagues) that in the latter times (Jude: the last time; Peter: the last days) some shall depart from the faith...." (1 Tim. 4:1 -- the first seven verses here merit careful comparison with Jude).

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come...." (2 Tim. 3:1, and again the first seven verses should be compared with Jude).

"After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29).

So evidently Jude was aware of the plain warnings spoken by both Peter and Paul.
Peter had said that making fun of belief in the Second Coming would be one of the signs of the last days. In effect, Jude now says the same; but then he startles his readers by adding: "These be they....". In other words, Peter was right and his prophecy is being fulfilled at this present time. Then is the reader to conclude that "the last days" have come and gone, or that they have lasted through 1900 years from Jude to the present day?
Neither of these conclusions will hold water. There is not much point in warning people that they live in "the last time" if that time stretches out for two millenia! And the attempt by some to limit the words to 'the last days of Judah's commonwealth' is woefully inadequate for at least two plain reasons:

  1. The Lord did not come in A.D. 70. There is no Scripture that says he did. But there are Scriptures that say that he didn't, e.g. "Sit thou at my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool" (Psa. 110:1).
  2. 2 Peter 3 links "the last days" quite unmistakably with the personal return of the Lord and the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy about "new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (v. 13). The only explanation of this problem that has solid Biblical backing and that has not been exposed as delusive is the idea of divine deferment, as expounded in the Appendix to "Revelation", by H.A.W.
Jude puts his finger on a vital spot when he declares that men who scoff at the idea of the Second Coming do so that they might "walk after their own ungodly lusts". What fools these mortals be! Today, as in Jude's time, they think that by abolishing belief in the Second Coming they are also abolishing the Second Coming!

Jude has two more quickfire censures of these enemies of the Truth:
  1. They "separate themselves" (A.V.). There is a Greek word horizo which normally means "mark off, determine", just as the horizon marks off the limits of visibility. With prefix dia- forming diorizo, it describes the "separate place" in Ezekiel's temple (41:12) and the Holy of Holies (Exod. 26:33). It also applies to Israel as a separate people (Lev. 20:26). With another prefix apo- it is used (in a bad sense) for withdrawing fellowship. But in this place, Jude uses the word with both prefixes: apodiorizo -- it is the only occurrence in the New Testament or LXX. Clearly it is meant to be specially emphatic. But the form of the verb does not imply "themselves" (as in the A.V.), but rather the idea that "they cut off others". Actually, taken either way, the word implies an act of separation by those who deem themselves superior in some way or another. Jude would assuredly find the counterpart to these people alive today. In differing degrees there are plenty calling themselves the Lord's people who revel in this practice.
  2. They are "sensual (psuchikos), not having the Spirit". These two phrases clearly go together, for they are antitheses. Psuche, soul, is not infrequently used in the New Testament to describe the natural man and his unworthy inclinations: "The fruits that thy soul lusted after" (Rev. 18:14), "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years" (Luke 12:19). And in some places there is careful antithesis between what pertains to the natural man and what characterizes the new man in Christ. "The natural (psuchikos) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:14). The Word of God "divides asunder between soul and Spirit" (Heb. 4:12). Here, then, declares Jude, are men who are in the ecclesia but are not truly in Christ. It is a searing thing to have to say. And of course he would have to say the same thing today -- about those who "make separations"!

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