This is a verse-by-verse exegesis of the Book of Jude, the last of the “General Epistles”. It was written by “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (v. 1). Even though there are at least two other possibilities as to the identity of Jude, the most probable is that Jude was the half brother of Jesus. Out of modesty he did not identify himself as the brother of Jesus, but simply as a “servant of Jesus Christ” and “brother of James” who was also a half brother of Jesus, and leader of the church at Jerusalem. James also simply identified himself in his epistle as “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Jude wrote with a loving heart out of concern and with authority. He preferred to write about a more pleasant theme—“the common salvation” that they shared, but he wrote a more somber epistle warning the believers about the encroachment of adversaries.
Jude wrote a dynamic epistle using many figures of speech denouncing the apostates that had encroached into the church. These apostates were denying the Lordship of Christ (v. 4), being divisive (v. 19), finding fault (v. 16) and boasting (v. 16). The beginnings of Gnosticism are seen in its undeveloped form in this epistle. The references to Old Testament events and extra biblical literature suggest the epistle was written primarily to first century Jewish Christians, but the warnings apply to all Christians throughout the Church Age. All Christians must avoid denying the Lordship of Christ, promiscuous living, rebellion against authority, divisiveness and selfishness. With this understanding, we begin our verse-by-verse exegesis of the epistle of Jude:
I. Salutation (vv. 1-2)
(Jude 1:1 KJV) Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
As stated above, Jude simply identifies himself as the “servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James”. Both Jude and James were half-brothers of Jesus. Jude is writing “to them that are sanctified by God the Father”. These are Christians who had their souls purified by separation from profane things at the time of the writing of this epistle. These are the faithful Christians. Those who are “preserved in Jesus Christ” are those who are taken care of and watched over by Jesus Christ. The “called” refers to all Christians, whether they have been sanctified or not, and whether or not they have been removed from the care and protection of Jesus Christ. Sometimes rebellious Christians are turned over to Satan to teach them not to blaspheme God and his Word. This is seen in the following passage of Scripture:
(1 Tim 1:18 KJV) This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
(1 Tim 1:19 KJV) Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
(1 Tim 1:20 KJV) Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Thus, this epistle is addressed to mature Christians, unrebellious immature Christians and rebellious Christians.
(Jude 1:2 KJV) Mercy unto you, and peace and love, be multiplied.
Jude wishes mercy, peace and love (agape) to be multiplied upon the recipients of this epistle. Jude wishes mercy upon these Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ that they may be blessed instead of cursed. The peace is the peace of God that passes all understanding. It refers to the tranquil state of the soul that has nothing to fear from Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The agape is the love of God that abounds in faithful Christians who are sanctified by the washing of the Word. Faithful Christians will experience all three of these virtues in this life and at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
II. Warnings Concerning Apostates (vv. 3-4)
(Jude 1:3 KJV) Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Jude states that he desired to write to them of the common salvation. This is the salvation shared by all—whether faithful or not—so it refers to our spirit salvation that is not dependent upon our faithfulness to God. However, circumstances had arisen that required Jude to warn and exhort the Christians to “contend for the faith”. “The faith” is the body of truths taught by the Apostles. Ungodly and apostate men had crept into the Church and were destroying the foundation of faith upon which the Church was built. These apostate men were turning the grace of God into license to sin and do what the flesh nature desired without consequences. We have these same apostate believers in the churches today who tout the grace, love and mercy of Jesus Christ, but denigrate and despise teachings on the Judgment Seat of Christ and our accountability and responsibility to live righteously in the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
The Church will be the first to be judged and every Christian will give an account for every idle word and every deed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is confirmed in the following passages of Scripture:
(Rom 14:10 KJV) But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
(Rom 14:11 KJV) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Rom 14:12 KJV) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
(2 Cor 5:10 KJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
(2 Cor 5:11 KJV) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
(Jude 1:4 KJV) For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even though Jude desired to write on pleasant things, he had to write about an urgent problem. Ungodly men had crept into the Church and were turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Lasciviousness is unbridled lust, licentiousness and a major yielding to the desires of the flesh nature. We have this same teaching in the Church today that has caused numerous pastors, deacons and elders to live lives in yielded abandonment to the old flesh nature. Teaching about the Judgment Seat of Christ is ignored and even attacked by these ungodly men and women. By doing this, these men and women are denying the Lord Jesus Christ with their lives. They shall be judged severely at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
III. Warnings Concerning the Peril of Apostasy (vv. 5-16)
In the next twelve verses, Jude provides ample warning about the peril of apostasy or falling away from the faith. He provides three examples of apostates in the past to warn us against this peril in the life of the Christian.
A. Examples of Apostates in the Past (vv. 5-7)
1. Egypt (v. 5)
(Jude 1:5 KJV) I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
The first example is a reminder about the Jewish people who were saved out of the land of Egypt. It is important to note that these were God’s people saved out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb. They became unfaithful and were later destroyed for their unfaithfulness. It is important to note that an apostate is a believer who turns his back on the faith. The ones who were destroyed did not believe God would help them enter into the Promised Land and conquer it. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that they could take the land. They were destroyed because of their unbelief. They were still God’s people.
2. Angels (v. 6)
(Jude 1:6 KJV) And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
The second example is the angels who fell when Lucifer departed from God and even sought to replace God. We know that one-third of the angels turned against God and followed Lucifer when he became prideful and wanted to be like God. Of these angels who fell from their positions with God, some even went so far as to cohabit with the daughters of men, producing offspring to corrupt the world. These offspring were destroyed in the judgment of Noah’s flood, and the fallen angels who left heaven and cohabited with the daughters of men are currently imprisoned in Tartarus. The Bible passage that confirms this sequence of events is a follows:
(Gen 6:1 KJV) And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
(Gen 6:2 KJV) That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
(Gen 6:3 KJV) And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
(Gen 6:4 KJV) There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
(Gen 6:5 KJV) And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:6 KJV) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
These fallen angels reserved in the abyss are waiting for their judgment, which will take place when Jesus returns to earth to judge.
3. Sodom & Gomorrah (v. 7)
(Jude 1:7 KJV) Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
The third example of apostasy refers to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other three cities of the plain—Zoar, Zeboim, and Admah. These five cities serve as an example for departing from the normal heterosexual, monogamous relationship between husband and wife to adulterous and homosexual affairs. Throughout Scripture, adultery is used as a type or figure for apostasy from the faith. Any Christian who puts anything before God is likened to an adulterer.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other three cities of the plain serve as a picture of the judgment by fire on the lives of believers. The old flesh nature will be destroyed by the fire just as the five cities of the plain were destroyed by fire.
B. Actions of Apostates in the Present (vv. 8-16)
1. Rejecting Authority (vv. 8-10)
(Jude 1:8 KJV) Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Jude is still talking about these ungodly men who crept into the Church unawares. They defile their bodies with sin, they reject the lordship of Christ and they speak evil of the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ. These men are Christians who have fallen away from the faith that was given to the saints. They have taken the grace of God as occasion to sin as they like, and they refuse to acknowledge the lordship of Christ in their lives.
(Jude 1:9 KJV) Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
Jude draws an analogy of Michael the archangel who did not even rebuke Satan, since Satan is still the god of this earth and his power and authority has not been taken away at present. Michael simply said that the Lord could rebuke him, since the Lord had authority over Satan, but Michael did not have authority over Satan.
(Jude 1:10 KJV) But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
These evil apostates speak evil of those things that they do not understand, but they corrupt themselves by the things that they know from their soulical nature. They reject spiritual truths from the Bible, but they accept the things that come from their old flesh nature and do those things that seem right according to their old flesh nature.
These present days are very similar to the times of the judges when every man did that which seemed right in his own mind. We have church leaders who have virtually no understanding of the Bible, and they do not have enough spiritual maturity to even be ashamed of this fact. One chairman of the deacons in a local church even stated recently that what he knew about the Bible would fill a thimble, and a Sunday School Superintendent expressed the same sentiment. Neither expressed any shame in their state of Bible ignorance. Another deacon leader expressed virtual ignorance of the Bible and even made the absurd statement that when he retired, he MIGHT start studying the Bible. These same men were speaking evil of Bible doctrines that they did not understand. They are in a state of apostasy or separation from the faith without even knowing it.
2. Walking in Error (v. 11)
(Jude 1:11 KJV) Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Jude uses a triad here to show the apostates erred in three respects, and he pronounces a woe unto them. The triad is as follows: 1) They have taken the way of Cain, which means they have disobediently devised their own ways of worship, they were likely envious of the true teachers and they even hated them with a murderous spirit; 2) They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error. Balaam under the guise of serving God encouraged others to sin, while seeking to gain monetarily from their sin. We have a classic example of this on the Trinity Broadcasting Network where preachers preach and prophesy for gain. They tout the grace and mercy of God, but fail to warn Christians of their accountability before the Judgment Seat of Christ. 3) They have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. Korah led a revolt against Aaron and Moses and did not acknowledge the authority delegated to them by God (Num. 16). Therefore, their rebellion was against God. The apostates referred to by Jude have followed in the same path as Korah, and Jude pronounces the certainty of their destruction (i.e., perished) by putting it in the past tense. These leaders had taken shepherding roles in the church, but they did not feed and nourish the flock.
3. Leading Falsely (v. 12-13)
(Jude 1:12 KJV) These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Jude calls these apostates “spots in your feasts of charity”. Love feasts were the closest celebrations of Christians where a meal was shared and followed by the Lord’s Supper. The Greek word for “spots” means “a rock in the sea, a ledge, a reef”, and it metaphorically refers to men in the church who damage others morally, causing them to shipwreck in regard to the faith and their progression in experiencing agape, which is the love of God. Jude refers to their failure to feed the flock of God, as they are more concerned about their own physical food without regard to spiritual food. Jude refers to them as clouds without water. Clouds offer the promise of water (i.e., the Holy Spirit), but they do not produce. “Carried about of winds” means they are caught up in the affairs of the world and controlled by their own flesh natures. They do not bear spiritual fruit and the reference to being twice dead and plucked up by the roots refers to their spiritual end of perishing at the Judgment Seat of Christ, because of their failure to be rooted and grounded in the faith via the engrafted Word of God. These are actually Christians, but they are unfruitful and unprofitable to the Lord. They will perish at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will be cast into “outer darkness”. This means they will lose their inheritance, which is a position in the kingdom of heaven.
(Jude 1:13 KJV) Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
“Raging waves of the sea” is a reference to impulsive and restless men who are tossed about by their raging passions. They are controlled by their flesh natures rather than the Holy Spirit. They have not crucified the old man and allowed the life of Christ to abide in them. “Foaming out their own shame” means that what they have to offer has no substance—foam is only air bubbles— and this will result in ignominy, disgrace and dishonor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Wandering stars means that they are true Christians—a star refers to messengers from God—but they have wandered astray or wandered from the path of righteousness. They could not wander from the path of righteousness if they had never been on it. Their lot is to be cast into “outer darkness” for the age, which is the millennial kingdom. This means that they will not enter into the limelight of the reign and rule of Jesus Christ. Please see my article at the following for a detailed explanation of outer darkness: The Outer Darkness vs The Kingdom.
4. Pleasing Self (vv. 14-16)
(Jude 1:14 KJV) And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
Enoch prophesied of the coming judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (1:9), which was written prior to 110 BC. Thus, it would have been known by the early Christians. Even though the Book of Enoch is not part of the canon of Scripture, there is no reason to question its authenticity. Since this book is part of the canon of Scripture, Jude is simply confirming that Enoch did prophesy about the coming Judgment of Jesus Christ in regard to these men. This statement that they will be judged at the Second Coming of Christ confirms that they are true Christians who will be judged for their ungodly deeds. Unsaved reprobates will not be judged until after the millennial kingdom at the Great White Throne Judgment.
(Jude 1:15 KJV) To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Jude continues to expound on the judgment of these ungodly Christians. Please note that it is their “ungodly deeds” that will be judged. The Greek word for “hard” refers to the harshness, sternness and hardheartedness that came out of these men’s mouths against the Lord Jesus Christ. Numerous Christians have fallen away from the faith and have spoken many harsh things about the Lord Jesus Christ. They shall be judged for every idle word that has come out of their mouths at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and there shall be weeping a gnashing of teeth. These men are still saved unconditionally by the grace of God and they shall be in heaven, even though they will fail to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Please see my dissertation for a detailed discussion of the difference between heaven and the kingdom of heaven: Heaven vs the Kingdom of Heaven.
(Jude 1:16 KJV) These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.
Jude continues with his description of these apostates who have done despite to the Word of God. He states that they are “murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts”. This description also confirms that these are Christians, but they are not walking in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are following the desires of their own flesh natures. Paul warns believers about this behavior in the following passage of Scripture:
(Phil 2:12 NIV) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
(Phil 2:13 NIV) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
(Phil 2:14 NIV) Do everything without complaining or arguing,
(Phil 2:15 NIV) so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
(Phil 2:16 NIV) as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
IV. Guidelines for Avoiding Apostasy (vv. 17-23)
A. Remembering the Teaching of the Apostles (vv. 17-19)
(Jude 1:17 KJV) But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
After having described the apostates in expressive language, Jude now tells his audience how to avoid the errors of the apostates. He first tells them to remember the warnings of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. At Ephesus, Paul warned that “savage wolves” would come in and destroy the flock and distort the truth. This is confirmed in the following passage of Scripture:
(Acts 20:28 GWT) Pay attention to yourselves and to the entire flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops to be shepherds for God's church which he acquired with his own blood.
(Acts 20:29 GWT) I know that fierce wolves will come to you after I leave, and they won't spare the flock.
(Acts 20:30 GWT) Some of your own men will come forward and say things that distort the truth. They will do this to lure disciples into following them.
Paul also warned Timothy about apostasy in the Church in the following verses:
(1 Tim 4:1 KJV) Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
(1 Tim 4:2 KJV) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
(2 Tim 3:1 KJV) This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
(2 Tim 3:2 KJV) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
(2 Tim 3:3 KJV) Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
(2 Tim 3:4 KJV) Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
(2 Tim 3:5 KJV) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
It is important to understand that these are Christians living this way, and at the time of the end, the majority of the Church is living this way. In fact, it is the pastors, Sunday School teachers and church leaders guilty of apostasy at the present time.
(Jude 1:18 KJV) How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
Jude continues to explain the teaching of the apostles about mockers at the time of the end who “walk after their on ungodly lusts”.
(Jude 1:19 KJV) These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
“Having not the Spirit” means they are not closely joined to the Holy Spirit. They have the Holy Spirit, but they are not controlled or in close communion with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “having” means “to adhere or cling closely to something”. These apostates are not clinging to the Holy Spirit and they are not controlled by the Holy Spirit. They have separated themselves from the control of the Holy Spirit. They are sensual, which means they live in accordance with their senses and the old flesh nature. They have not crucified self, and they have not been filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. They are walking after their own lusts and not in accordance with the Spirit.
B. Nurturing Themselves (vv. 20-21)
(Jude 1:20 KJV) But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Jude exhorts his audience to not be like the apostates, but instead to do four things. The Greek has four parallel participles: building, praying, keeping and expecting. Building up refers to personal edification in the knowledge of their faith. This is doctrine in the Word of God and it is critical for maturing in the faith. “Praying in the Holy Ghost” means to pray as one is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is praying in the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Jude 1:21 KJV) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
The third participle is for them to keep themselves “in the love of God”. This happens when one crucifies the old man and allows the life of Christ to be worked out the individual. This love is the unconditional love of God that flows through the Christian who is walking in the Spirit. This love cannot come from the individual, but must come from God. The fourth participle is “looking” and it means to expect the fulfillment of promises from God in regard to eternal life, which is the salvation of the soul. God has promised eternal life to those who patiently endure this life and remain faithful until the end. Christians who are building themselves up doctrinally in the faith, praying in the power of the Holy Spirit and keeping themselves in the love of God are living in expectation of eternal life from God. If a Christian is not doing these things, then he cannot realistically expect soul salvation at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Eternal life is the receipt of glory, honor and immortality that comes from God to faithful Christians who remain faithful to him.
C. Being Merciful to Others (vv. 22-23)
(Jude 1:22 KJV) And of some have compassion, making a difference:
This verse is not translated very well. It says to have mercy on those who contend with faithful Christians and separate themselves from such. These Christians are not doing the four things shown in the previous verse, but the faithful Christian is still to have mercy and compassion on them in spite of their hostile spirit of opposition.
(Jude 1:23 KJV) And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
For those who have not separated themselves from faithful Christians, the faithful Christians should do their best to save their souls from the fire. The faithful Christian is to do his best to snatch these Christians from the fire. This is not talking about spirit salvation for the unsaved reprobate but soul salvation for the unfaithful Christian. The faithful Christian is to do his best to snatch these Christians from the fire of destruction, but they are to do so in fear of becoming corrupted themselves from the old flesh nature of these Christians. The garment is representative of the works of a Christian, so the faithful Christian should fear the works of the unfaithful Christian, and strive to avoid corruption from them.
V. Victory Over Apostasy (vv. 24-25)
(Jude 1:24 KJV) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
The Christian can have victory over apostasy through the One who is able to keep him from falling. In addition this Christian can be presented as blameless before the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory with exceeding joy. This is the end result of the Christian who is an overcomer.
(Jude 1:25 KJV) To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.
Jesus Christ is the One who can keep us from falling and present us faultless before himself. He is the One with glory, majesty, dominion and power in the present age and in the coming ages.
Conclusion: Apostates are Christians who have fallen away from the faith. They do untold damage to other Christians, but they will be judged for this evil work at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They are Christians who do not study their Bibles, and walk in accordance with their old flesh natures. They oppose and separate themselves from the faithful Christian who does study his Bible and strives to live by it. These apostate Christians will lose their souls in the destroying fire of God’s judgment. They will lose their inheritance in the kingdom of heaven and will not reign and rule with Jesus Christ.