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Jude Introduction-The Most Neglected Book

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Jude Series: The Most Neglected Book-Lesson # 1

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Wenstrom Bible Ministries

Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom

Thursday March 24, 2022

Jude Series: The Most Neglected Book

Lesson # 1

The epistle of Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible since the Greek text of this epistle consists of only 464 Greek words according to NA28, which translates into only twenty-five verses.

Very rarely, does the academic community discuss it and even fewer pastors teach their congregations this tiny letter.

In fact, in 1975, D. J. Rowston asserted that in the scholarly community, Jude was “the most neglected” of New Testament books (“Most Neglected Book in the New Testament.” New Testament Studies 21:554–63).

The epistle of Jude still receives less attention by the scholarly community than even 2 and 3 John.

There are several reasons which suggest why the epistle of Jude is often overlooked by scholars and pastors.

First Jude cites two pseudepigraphic works, namely 1 Enoch (verses 14-15) and the Assumption of Moses (verse 10).

Also, the epistle of Jude contains a mysterious reference to Michael the arch angel of God arguing with the devil over the body of Moses after his death, which quotes 1 Enoch (verse 9).

Many exegetes and expositors of Jude have found great difficulty in justifying Jude’s use of these two uninspired works.

Secondly, Jude refers to Old Testament situations such as God disciplining the apostate believers from the Exodus generation as well as the mysterious judgment of the fallen angels of the Antediluvian period who had sex with unregenerate women (verses 5-7).

He references the judgment of the unregenerate, unrepentant and rebellious citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7).

He also refers to the rebellion against God by Old Testament personages such as Cain, Korah, and Balaam (verse 11).

He declares that the unregenerate will suffer eternal condemnation (verses 8-16).

The Christian community in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries does not like to hear about God’s judgment of unrepentant, unregenerate people or that He disciplines His disobedient children.

Therefore, the epistle of Jude is extremely difficult to interpret and to apply in the twenty-first century.

Thomas Schreiner writes “We can also say that the message of judgment is especially relevant to people today, for our churches are prone to sentimentality, suffer from moral breakdown, and too often fail to pronounce a definitive word of judgment because of an inadequate definition of love. Jude’s letter reminds us that errant teaching and dissolute living have dire consequences. Hence, we should not relegate his words to a crabby temperament that threatens with judgment those he dislikes but as a warning to beloved believers (vv. 3, 17) to escape a deadly peril. Jude was written so that believers would contend for the faith that was transmitted to them (v. 3) and so that they would not abandon God’s love at a crucial time in the life of their church. Such a message must still be proclaimed today, for moral degradation is the pathway to destruction.”

Despite the problems related to the interpretation of the epistle of Jude, this small letter should not be neglected by the church in the twenty-first century for many reasons.

First of all, as we will note, it emphasizes the importance of the Christian community obeying the civil authorities by rejecting those who would incite rebellion against these authorities.

In other words, it emphasizes with the Christian community the importance of not practicing unjustified civil disobedience.

Most scholars believe the great importance of Jude is to reject false teachers and their heterodox teaching.

However, as we will note, nowhere does Jude tell the recipients of this letter to reject false teachers and their heterodox teaching.

I am in agreement with Herbert Bateman IV who asserts that the individuals who Jude condemns in this epistle are the Zealots or Sicarii who revolted against the Roman Empire and were attempting to persuade the Christian community to join in this revolt.

Thus, in this letter, Jude wants the Jewish Christian community in Judaea to obey the governmental authorities and reject this rebellion against Rome led by these Zealots since it would not be justified civil disobedience.

In other words, to rebel against Rome would be to reject God’s will for their lives.

In Jude 3, Jude does exhort the recipients of this letter to contend for the Christian faith or that body of doctrine taught by Jesus and His apostles and considered orthodoxy by the church.

Most exegetes and expositors immediately assume that the implication of this exhortation is that the recipients of Jude reject false doctrine.

Again, nowhere does Jude describes these individuals who he condemns in this letter as being teachers who taught false doctrine!

In verses 20-23, Jude exhorts the recipients of the letter to build themselves up spiritually by means of their most holy faith and by praying by means of the Holy Spirit so that they maintain themselves in the practice of the love of God while anticipating the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ which brings eternal life.

Also, in these verses, Jude commands the recipients to have mercy on those of their number who are wavering with regards to the Christian faith and also to save the unregenerate in their periphery from eternal condemnation by communicating the gospel to them.

Herbert Bateman IV writes “The occasion for Jude’s writing was during the early to mid-60s when the relationship between Rome and Judaea was deteriorating most rapidly. The Zealots or Sicarii were actively striving to seduce as many Judaeans as possible to revolt against Rome. Jewish contentions with Rome were articulated in literature and acted out in numerous skirmishes with Rome from the moment Pompey entered Jerusalem in 63 BC. But by the time Jude writes his letter (AD 62–66), momentum for revolt was growing in the cities of Caesarea and Jerusalem, in the Judaean desert regions and hill country, and in Samaria and Galilee. Zealots were inciting Judaeans with their extremist theology to political activism under the belief that the sole rule of God was to be demonstrated by refusing to call anyone Lord and ruler. Political freedom from Gentile occupation was to purify the nation, a political purification necessary before God could usher in his eschatological kingdom rule. Consequently, the coming of God’s kingdom was dependent on the active militancy of the Zealots against Rome as well as the extermination of any Judaean who was willing to submit to Roman rule. ‘The effects of their frenzy,’ recalls Josephus, ‘were thus felt throughout all Judea, and every day saw this war being fanned into fiercer flame.’ Thus the godless people mentioned throughout Jude’s letter (Jude 4, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16, 19) are the Zealots or Sicarii, who were wreaking havoc throughout Judaea just prior to the AD 66 Judaean revolt against Rome. Consequently, this commentary concurs with Hengel’s muse: ‘it is extremely unlikely that Jewish Christians could have participated in the uprising against Rome,’ and that the two eschatological movements (Christianity and Zealotism) were ‘firmly opposed to each other.’ And yet this commentary goes one step further to argue that Jude’s letter is a letter exhorting Jewish believers to abstain from participating in the Zealot revolt against Rome, while trying to win Zealot revolutionaries over to Jesus, who as the true Messiah will come again, exhibiting mercy in the process.”

As we noted, the epistle of Jude speaks quite a bit of the Lord Jesus Christ judging unrepentant, unregenerate people at His Second Advent, which ends the seventieth week of Daniel and correspondingly, the times of the Gentiles.

Jude 14-16 describes the Second Advent of Jesus Christ when He will at that time judge every unregenerate human being on planet earth.

The implication is that these unrepentant, unregenerate Zealots will also be judged by Jesus Christ at His Second Advent.

This would also indicate that Jude believed that the Second Advent was imminent because he is teaching in these verses that the false teachers will be judged at the Second Advent.

Of course, the rapture must take place first in order for the seventieth week of Daniel to take place, which ends with the Second Advent (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-12).

Therefore, Jude 5-16 makes clear that those whom Jude condemns in these verses are unregenerate since Christ only judges the unregenerate at His Second Advent.

Connected to this, verses 17-19 describes these unrepentant, unregenerate individuals whom the Lord will kill as those who will be scoffers and driven by their own sinful desires who are divisive and deceived by Satan’s cosmic world system.

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