The letter of Jude is one of the shortest Bible books. It is also one of the most complicated, since it is tightly packed with references to biblical and extra-biblical stories that are not well known to most present-day readers. This article tries to give you a short introduction to help you with some of these issues and to discover the valuable lessons this letter contains.
The author of this letter introduces himself as “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1:1). Like James, Jude was one of Jesus’ biological half-brothers. He was a son of Joseph and Mary. He is referred to in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Initially, Jesus’ brothers did not believe that He really was the Messiah, the Son of God. But after His death and resurrection, they came to faith and joined the group of Jesus’ disciples (see Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Jude introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ” to acknowledge that He accepts Jesus as his Lord.
Jude does not address a specific local church community. He just calls his readers “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for [or “by”] Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1). The Easy English Bible unpacks this sentence for a clearer understanding, and phrases it as follows: “I am writing to you, people that God, the Father, loves. God has chosen you to be his own people. He is keeping you safe until the time when Jesus Christ returns.” In, he expresses his emotional connection with these people, calling them “beloved” or “dear friends”.
Given the number of references to Old Testament Scriptures and other Jewish literature, Jude is probably writing to Jewish people who believed in Jesus Christ.
Warning for false teachers
Jude writes in response to an urgent crisis. Some “ungodly people” have crept in unnoticed and try to deceive believers by their corrupt teachings and immoral way of life. They do not accept the authority of Jesus Christ as their Master and Lord. “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16). Jude strongly warns his readers against these people. He mentions various historical examples to emphasize his concerns.
Historical examples applied to the false teachers
- Israelites who were saved from Egypt but did not believe in God, were destroyed (see Psalm 78:1-33; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6; Hebrews 3:16-19).
- Rebellious angels are put in prison forever, until God’s final judgment. This may refer to the fall of Satan and his demons in the beginning or with the story in Genesis 6:1-4.
- The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire because of their extremely sinful behavior. You can read the story in Genesis 18-19.
The false teachers who infiltrated in the church, behave in the same manner, and thus will also face God’s judgment (Jude 1:8).
- Even the leader of God’s angels, Michael, did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment against the devil when arguing about the body of Moses, but left the judgment to God (Jude 1:9). This may be a reference to an extra-biblical source that is not available anymore, for example from ‘The Testament of Moses’. We only have some background information from Deuteronomy 34:5-6.
The false teachers act differently. They “blaspheme the glorious ones” (Jude 1:8) and “blaspheme all that they do not understand” (Jude 1:10). They do not subject themselves to Jesus’ authority, but claim authority for themselves.
Jude now mentions some examples of people who were discontent with what they were granted and therefore rebelled against God.
- Cain in Genesis 4:5-11
- Balaam in Numbers 22-24; Joshua 13:22 and 2 Peter 2:15
- Korah in Numbers 16:1-33
All three examples had a tragic ending. The false teachers resemble these people and will also face God’s wrath.
Finally, Jude cites an ancient prophecy by Enoch. This man is mentioned in Genesis 5:18-24 and in Hebrews 11:5. His prophecy is not written down in the Bible, but in 1 Henoch (an ancient Hebrew book). Jude cites 1 Henoch 1:9 and applies it to the false teachers:
“It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” (Jude 1:14-15)
Jude’s detailed argument is a penetrating appeal to his readers: do not follow these people but hold fast to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It is very dangerous to deviate in doctrine or life from the truth that God has revealed to us!
Encouragement and doxology
Jude closes his letter with a reminder that the appearance of false teachers is not surprising. This had already been foretold by the apostles. Jude encourages his readers: “Building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21). This exhortation connects back to the beginning of the letter: believers should “keep themselves in the love of God”, knowing that they are “beloved in God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1).
At the very end of Jude’s letter is a doxology that is so timeless and beautiful I’d like to quote it in full:
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25).