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
vv. 5-11 (O.T.), vv. 17,18
vv. 12-16, 19
In the section now under review there is also an
impressive ABAB structure:
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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:
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.
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