Keep Yourselves in God’s Love––An Exposition of Jude’s Epistle (11): Destined for Destruction

Further, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, also prophesied about these false teachers, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones 15 with the result of executing judgment against everyone and with the result of convicting every soul concerning all their ungodly works, which they committed in such an ungodly way, and concerning all the harsh things, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These false teachers are murmurers, discontents, ones going after their own desires, and their mouth speaks boasts, ones admiring faces to gain advantage.
Jude 14–16 (author’s translation)

Most movie buffs or TV bingers develop a sort of sixth sense about how the story will go. Particularly, you generally know well before it plays out that something bad is going to happen to specific characters. When you develop that sixth sense, and when you are right about what you anticipated would happen, you find a bit of satisfaction in announcing, “I saw that coming!” As we find in Jude 14–16, Jude was a redemptive-history buff, having a keen enough sense of how the story always goes for heretics that he has a (genuinely) prophetic insight about how the situation will end in the church that occupied his concerns. Jude saw that judgment would land upon the false teachers that had infiltrated this church. This time he indicated how he knew this condemnation was on its way because of a prophecy that had been handed down from ages past. Not only did God reveal long ago that he would judge ungodliness, but the false teachers whom Jude addressed demonstrated that they measured up well to the standards of ungodliness that God had promised to condemn.

As he stated from the outset, Jude found it necessary to admonish this church to contend for the faith because ungodly people who were predestined for destruction had infiltrated the church. This is clear in verses 3–4: “Beloved, although making every effort to write to you concerning our common salvation, I have necessity to write to you, so exhorting you to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints because certain men have weaseled in, those who long ago had been marked out beforehand for this condemnation, ungodly ones, who are altering our God’s grace into sensuality and are denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.” In his opening statement, Jude already indicated that he saw the false teachers’ condemnation coming. The major upshot from Jude’s point is that God’s people should be encouraged that God stands by us in all our troubles.

An Age-Old Problem

Throughout his letter, Jude repeatedly used Old Testament examples to establish the pattern of what will happen to the false teachers. He has shown what awaits them by using what we call “types.” A type is something that happens in the Old Testament that foreshadows and points forward to something that happens in the New. For example, David was a shepherd coronated king at Bethlehem, which establishes a pattern that points forward to Christ as the great shepherd king who was born at Bethlehem. So, God appointed an Old Testament shepherd king to teach us about Christ as the ultimate shepherd king, and that is one example of a type. Jude repeatedly appealed to Old Testament figures as patterns of what the false teachers in this church were like. People like unbelieving Israelites, rebellious angels, Sodom, Cain, Balaam, and Korah were types—exemplary patterns established to teach Christians about false teachers. Although it may seem theoretical, typology teaches an important point. False teachers, deception, and heresy have always troubled the church. That observation may seem obvious but has an important implication.

Christians often worry that the church is in worse shape than ever. We also often worry that the problems of the present will bring an end to the church. Maybe the problem is a lack of biblical preaching, maybe corrupted worship, maybe distorted doctrines, maybe bad leadership, or maybe it is compromised by the world’s values. Whatever the case, Jude shows that the problem is not new. It has always been so with God’s people.

Far from a lament, that constant problem comes with built-in reasons for assurance and confidence. Within Old Testament types of these false teachers, Jude notes a prophecy about them in verses 14–15:

Further, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, also prophesied about these false teachers, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones with the result of executing judgment against everyone and with the result of convicting every soul concerning all their ungodly works, which they committed in such an ungodly way, and concerning all the harsh things, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

In part six, we wrestled with the nature of Jude’s use of extra-biblical literature, so we will refrain from rehashing details of why Jude modeled traditioned exegesis by reading Scripture while listening to reputable sources as God’s people holistically interpret the Bible together. Here, drawing upon Jude’s use of Enoch’s prophecy, we take away that God’s people should know that God has long known about whatever troubles would come upon our church. God inspired prophecies about the very things that would bother us in this last age. God is not caught off guard by problems in the church. Jude’s use of this ancient prophecy about the Lord’s judgment upon false teachers most pointedly tells us that heresy has always been a problem and God has always planned to address it.

An Addressed Problem

Jude’s use of Enoch’s prophecy teaches why we ought to be optimistic and have some hope. The examples leading up to this citation demonstrate how God’s people always had to face this problem. When Jude used Cain as a type of the same issue, he showed how this problem was alive and active since Genesis 4, since the fall itself.

Christians often need some realism to shake off our naïve nostalgia about the past. We need to see that there was no period in history when God’s people were safe from error. Since the advent of sin, people have sought to ruin God’s people if they could. There was never a golden age when God’s people had it together and were entirely protected from the threat of heresy. From Adam’s crash to Christ’s consummation, there have always been those trying to sit under the eaves of the church, if not sit at the head of our table with godless purposes in their hearts. This has demonstrably been a problem for God’s people.

Jude helps us to see that, regardless of how negative our assessment of the church’s present situation is, we are meant to be people of hope. Christians very easily worry about the state of the church when we look at God’s people holistically. We often lament about how the church is worse than any of us can remember or even worse than it ever has been. We perceive that things are falling apart, so our response is to panic and mourn.

The odd thing is that, in all my studies of church history, I have never seen a writer from the past say, “This is the best age of the church. If we can just keep up the good stuff we’ve got going now, we are set. The golden age has arrived.” No, the church is always afflicted with problems. That is not a reason to despair. It is a reason to have hope. Because we have always had problems and are still here. We have problems now, but God will preserve us.

It seems cool right now to be post-millennial, looking for a golden age of restoration. I, however, am not sure how to square those hopes with Jude’s use of Enoch’s prophecy. After all, Jude explained that Enoch’s prophecy meant the destruction of the very false teachers that this church faced would occur when the Lord Jesus comes with legions of angels. Jude’s previous examples all showed how God destroyed the false teachers and rebels that hid among His people. That Christ has not yet returned shows that this same horrific problem will affect us until the very end of this age, which seems to preclude the idea of the church’s golden age.

Far from pessimism, the continuing open-endedness of Enoch’s prophecy is cause for our hope. Jude’s church should have had fairly strong confidence knowing that God Himself had spoken concerning how He would bring judgment upon the teachers that afflicted them. Notice that Jude said it is “about these,” meaning about those teachers that Enoch prophesied. You may think that this redirects application from our situation, but we remind ourselves of the timing of the final execution of this prophecy. The Lord comes with tens of thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment. This judgment will be when Christ returns.

So, even though this prophecy was about those false teachers, the fact that judgment is yet to come means that all the false teachers and all those who trouble Christ’s church are together destined for destruction. All who commit treason against God are swept into this coming judgment. God will execute judgment, which shows how He has always addressed the same issue.

An Inspiring Rescue

The problem is that we have all committed treason against God. There is not a single one of us who has not offended God by our sin. We are all rebels against our Maker like the treacherous Israelites, the fallen angels, Korah’s followers, and these false teachers. That means that God should be coming for us all in judgment. The description of the false teachers in verse 16 indicts us all: “These false teachers are murmurers, discontents, ones going after their own desires, and their mouth speaks boasts, ones admiring faces to gain advantage.”

How many of us drift into complaining about our work, resenting the blessings we have, justifying the ways that we long for sinful things, fall into pride, or kiss up to those who can promote our standing? This list, as the reason that God will judge the false teachers, drags us all before the bar of God’s courtroom and convicts us. From the repeated emphasis on ungodliness throughout verses 14–15, we see how heinous these sins truly are.

Yet, Jude’s citation of 1 Enoch 1:9 includes a particularly interesting feature. Jude says that “the Lord comes,” but the original text of 1 Enoch referred more generically to God coming. Jude replaced “God” with the New Testament’s standard designation for Christ. Just like he interpreted Israel’s rescue from Egypt in light of Christ as an act of Christ’s work to save His people, so too he also reread this Enoch prophecy in light of Christ. It is not merely God who comes to judge his enemies, but God the Son, the incarnate Lord.

Christ as the coming judge has twofold significance. The first time that the Son came to earth, He came to set the captives free. He came to rescue us from the exact judgment that He will inflict upon everyone who does not believe when He comes again. When Christ came the first time, He went to the cross, enduring God’s full wrath as He hung nailed to those beams. He underwent every measure of penalty owed to those who break God’s law. If you are a Christian, He did so to take your place on the executioner’s block. Everyone trusting Christ needs to know that they are safe from condemnation. Jesus paid for your sin and earned your place in heaven. When Christ returns, you will not bear the force of His judgment because He has already endured that for you to ensure your everlasting life with Him. Secondly, when Christ comes back to judge, Jude makes clear that it is to rescue His church. Hardship plagues God’s people in this age as we bear up under those who pressure the church to distort grace and reject Christ. Maybe those pressures are from the outside, from those who rebel against the Lord. But maybe those pressures come from within, as Jude addressed those claiming to be Christians who are leading the church astray.

Either way, Christ will purge the church of her troubles when He comes back. Our redemption will be complete, and it will be complete as Jesus frees us of all that has troubled us. Christians have every reason to hope. God has promised to rescue His church. He has bought us out of everlasting condemnation through the blood of Christ. God does not leave His people aimless in this world but sets our sights on the horizons of history, reminding us how He so richly cares for His people. Never lose heart, believer. History rolls on, and Christ has promised that the gates of hell will never prevail against His church. We pray because we believe God will hear us. And we believe God hears us because Jesus has won our audience in the heavenly throne room.

©Harrison Perkins. All Rights Reserved.

Here is the entire series so far.


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