DIG: What turning point in the book of Jude takes place here? What two groups does he say have warned us in the past about the coming apostasy? In what way should we remember their words? Why shouldn’t the actions and words of the false teachers surprise us today? When did the last days begin? What do they particularly scoff at? What do they follow?
REFLECT: How does Jude point out that what was going on in the congregations of the LORD should be expected today? How do you remember the words of the prophets and apostles? What can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones against the sexual tsunami that is so prevalent in the world today?
But as for you, God’s beloved ones, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you: In the acharit-hayamim, or last days there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires (Jude 17-18).
I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires (2 Peter 3:2-3).
Jude follows the same structure as that found in Second Peter, Chapters 2 and 3. In Chapter 2, Peter dealt with the issue of false teachers who would appear in the immediate future; and in Chapter 3, he dealt with the issue of scoffers who would appear in the distant future. In the preceding verses, Jude 4-16, he wrote about imposters who had already arrived. Now, in Jude 17-19, he writes about the distant future when mockers willcappear, and he issues warnings against them.101
But as for you (in contradiction to the apostates), God’s beloved ones (Jude 17a). The noun shifts from these (houtoi) to you (hymeis). The pronoun you is emphatic, placed first in the sentence, thus indicating that Jude is turning toward the encouragement of his readers. The word beloved does not refer to Jude’s love for those to whom he was writing, but to the fact that all believers are beloved of ADONAI. The word is agapao, the distinctive word for love used in John 3:16, for instance. This signals a major transition, as did the same phrase at the beginning of his brief letter. In Jude 3 he began the body of the letter after a brief introduction in Jude 1-2. Here, he shifts from the denunciation of the rebels in Jude 5-16, to the encouragement of the faithful in Jude 17-23.
I want you (believers in Jude’s own day) to remember the words spoken in the past by the prophets. With the word remember, Jude uses the first of several imperatives. In Jude 5 he wanted to remind his readers of the judgment God brought on apostates in the past. In other words, while contrasted in their content, Jude 5-16 and Jude 17-19 are parallel in form. Both bring a reminder to Jude’s readers about the false teachers. The Greek word for: spoken in the past is a perfect passive participle, indicating that the words and the message are still valid today.
What the readers must do is remember the words that the Bible previously spoke to them. Remembering in Scriptures does not involve mere mental recollection, like when we remember someone’s name that we had temporarily forgotten. Remembering in the biblical sense means that we take to heart the words spoken, so that they are imprinted on our lives and we can actually live them out.102 Not being perfect, but sanctified, we are conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
I also want you to remember the words spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and what He foretold through your apostles (Jude 17b; Second Peter 3:2). Peter wanted to emphasize that the commands of the apostles actually represented the words of Yeshua. Those commands were the moral norms that believers were expected to follow. In other words, the moral standard for believers was summed up in the teaching of Messiah Himself. The apostate teachers, on the other hand, were notorious for their immoral lifestyle.
New Covenant revelation came through your apostles. Jude obviously takes for granted that the apostolic warning to which he refers was well known to his readers (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Cy – These are the Names of the Twelve Apostles). Paul also gave similar warnings. In Acts 20:28-30 CJB, he warned: Watch out for yourselves, and for all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as leaders, to shepherd God’s Messianic community, which He won for Himself at the cost of His own Son’s blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you; and they won’t spare the flock. Even from among your own number, men will arise and teach perversions of the truth, in order to drag away disciples after themselves.
The apostle Paul continued his warning in First Timothy 4:1: The Holy Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons, and in Second Timothy 3:1-3 he said: There will be terrible times in the last days when men and women will give terrible evidence of their apostasy. In addition, John also speaks of such people (First John 2:19, 4:1; and Second John 7-11).
Peter said: First of all, the appearance of people like this is no surprise. They (the apostles) said to you, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (Jude 18; Second Peter 3:3). The imperfect tense of “They said to you,” points to the repeated nature of the apostolic warnings. And the Greek word empaiktes, translated mockers in Jude and scoffers in Peter are found nowhere else in the Bible. A scoffer ridicules the Word of God, especially the promise that the Messiah will return to reclaim the earth. They will say: Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation (Second Peter 3:4).
It seems clear that the rebels laughed at those who refused to go with them down the path of their own lusts; people who still had a sense of morality and “old fashioned” standards, unlike the supposedly superior Gnostics like themselves, who were exploiting their so-called freedom in Christ (see Ac – The Book of Jude from a Jewish Perspective: Purpose). The apostate teachers were claiming to be so Spirit-filled that there was no room for the kind of morality that Yeshua talked about. They claimed that grace was so abundant that their “sin” would result in even more grace (see Ah – Godless People Have Secretly Slipped In Among You). They claimed that the salvation of the soul was all that mattered, and what a person does with their body doesn’t matter because it will turn to dust anyway. Those who fussed about sexual purity seemed to them to be astonishingly naïve.103
In the acharit-hayamim, or last times (Jude 18a) does not contradict the fact that the prophecies were directed to Jude’s readers. The righteous of the TaNaKh believed that the last days had started with the coming of Yeshua, His death, and resurrection. The writer to the Hebrews could say, therefore, that in these last days ADONAI has spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:20), indicating that the last days had arrived. Similarly, in both First Timothy 4:1 and 2 Timothy 3:1 the coming of the apostates are said to be in later times and in the last days respectively. Paul fully expected this prophecy to be fulfilled in the false teaching that was undermining the church at Ephesus. This reminds us of Jude 4a, where he wrote: For certain people whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.
There will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires (Jude 18b). The same people who are compared to brute beasts in Jude 10 are said to be led by lust, as an animal is led around with a ring in its nose. The animal walks obediently after its master; these walk after ungodly desires. Neither the captive animals nor the apostates enslaved by sin have a choice. They will go wherever they are led. In other words the false teachers are slaves. They may talk about the freedom to do whatever they please, and despise believers who live lives of holiness in the fear of God as best they can, but the plain truth is that these rebels have enslaved themselves to corruption.104
Jude portrays the counterfeit teachers as generally mocking the LORD and His moral standards. They are so intent on satisfying their ungodly desires that they have no room left for God. They will give free reign to their passions and debauchery because they have no capacity for holiness. Since their hearts are not transformed, all they can do is pursue their ungodly desires like brute beasts. By labeling their desires as ungodly, Jude reminds us of his main accusation against them (Jude 18b and 15).105
There is a sexual tsunami in today’s world. Sex education in kindergarten (more like indoctrination), communal bathrooms, and distribution of contraceptives without respect to age are common now. Abortions, adultery and pornography at an all time high (see my commentary on Exodus Dq – You Shall Not A Commit Adultery). But more than that, the sexual content in the visual media is unbelievable. You can’t have a situation “comedy” that will be a success unless people are in bed together and sex is talked about constantly. The acceptance of homosexuality has to be in almost every show that wants to get ratings. Even cars are said to be sexy these days. All social barriers have been abandoned. Pornography is so available on the internet that pretty soon the only thing left to see will be internal organs.
What used to be obscene is now common place. If you speak up at school, especially at college, about a personal relationship with the Lord, a belief in the Second Coming, in the authority of the Word of God and in the judgment of sin, you will be mocked. If you believe in “old fashioned” ideas like being against abortion, or believing in abstinence before marriage, or marriage between a man and a woman, you will be scoffed at by the pneumatikoi, the “enlightened” Gnostics of today, just as surely as believers were in Jude’s day.