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Studying the little Epistle of Jude is like working a gold mine because of all the rich nuggets which are here just for the mining.
The writer is Jude, which is the English form of the name Judas. Jude, he tells us here, is the brother of James. Now, in the Gospel records there are three or four men by the name of James, and there are three men by the name of Judas. We are helped in our identification of the writer of this epistle by the record in Matthew: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55). So two of these brothers, James, the writer of the Epistle of James, and Judas, the writer of the Epistle of Jude, are half–brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are two other men by the name of Judas, and they both were among the twelve apostles of our Lord. The best known, of course, is Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed the Lord. The other apostle by the name of Judas is distinguished in this way: “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22, italics mine). The way he is identified is just that he is not Judas Iscariot. Therefore we believe that the writer of this epistle is the third Judas which Scripture mentions, Judas, the half–brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that neither James nor Jude identify themselves as brothers of the Lord Jesus. James introduces himself as “… a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ …” (James 1:1). And Jude introduces himself as “the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” Jude calls himself the servant, meaning “bond slave,” of Jesus Christ. Why didn’t James and Jude capitalize on their blood relationship with Jesus? I think the reason is obvious. Neither James nor Jude believed in the messianic claims of Jesus until after His resurrection. It was the Resurrection that convicted them and confirmed to them that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Up until that time they thought He had just gone “off” on religion, that He was, as the Scripture puts it, beside Himself. But after His resurrection they became believers. You see, it was possible to grow up in a home with Jesus in the days of His flesh and not recognize Him. I believe we see in Psalm 69 that He suffered loneliness and misunderstanding during those growing up years in Nazareth. Therefore His brothers felt that, although they had been reared with Him, they hadn’t really known Him at that time. As Paul expressed it later, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). Jude, though a half–brother, recognizes that Jesus is the glorified Christ and that human relationship is not meaningful to him in any way. He had to come to Christ as a sinner, accepting Him as Savior just as anyone else did.
By the way, this is the marvelous answer of both James and Jude to an attitude which arose after the era of the apostles. There was a brief period when the family of Jesus was revered in a rather superstitious and sacred way as if they were something special. Actually, they were not superior; they were simply human beings who had to come to Christ just as you and I must come to Christ.
I have always felt that Protestantism has ignored Mary. She was a wonderful person. It was no accident that she was chosen of God to bear the Son of God, but that does not mean she is to be lifted up above all other people. She takes her own rightful place. Elizabeth called her blessed among women, not blessed above women, and Mary herself confessed her need of a Savior (see Luke 1:47). Therefore the brief period through which the church went when the family of the Lord Jesus was elevated to a very high position would certainly have been opposed by James and Jude. They themselves took the position of being merely bond slaves of Jesus Christ.
This book was written around A.D. 66–69.
The theme of the book is assurance in days of apostasy. Jude picked up the pen of inspiration to write on some theme or truth concerning the gospel and our salvation. He could have chosen the subject of justification by faith, but Paul had written on that in Romans. He could have chosen the resurrection of Christ, but Paul had written on that in 1 Corinthians. Or he could have chosen the doctrine of reconciliation, but Paul had written on that in 2 Corinthians. Probably Jude could have written on the great subject of faith, but Paul had written on that in Galatians. Or he could have selected the church as the body of Christ, but Paul had written on that in Ephesians. Or he could have selected the person of Christ, but Paul had written on that in Colossians. Jude could have written about our Great High Priest, but the writer to the Hebrews had already written on that. Or he could have chosen the subject of fellowship, but John was going to write on that later on. So the Spirit of God caused him to develop another subject rather than to develop one of the great doctrines. The Spirit of God arrested his purpose before he could even put down his subject and directed him into another channel. Jude’s subject is the coming apostasy. He gives us the most vivid account that we have of the apostasy, and he presents it in a very dramatic manner. Jude hangs out a red lantern on the most dangerous curve along the highway the church of Christ is traveling.
Jude describes in vivid terms and with awe–inspiring language the frightful conditions that were coming in the future. This little epistle is like a burglar alarm. Apostates have broken into the church. They came in the side door while nobody was watching. And this little epistle is like an atom bomb. The first bomb did not fall on Hiroshima or Nagasaki; it fell when Jude wrote this little epistle. It’s an atom bomb, and it exploded in the early church as a warning.
Jude gives the only record in Scripture regarding the contention of Satan with Michael the archangel over the body of Moses. It is a very remarkable passage of Scripture.
Also, Jude records the prophecy of Enoch, which is found nowhere else in Scripture. He sees the Lord coming with ten thousands of His saints.
The little prophecy of Jude affords a fitting introduction to the Book of Revelation.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 57: 2 & 3 John & Jude. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)