Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
Who was Jude?
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.
Who Was Jude?
That is a great question to ask at the start of this journey. Just who is Jude?
Let me start by giving you what we know and what we don’t know about Jude. Just the facts. Academic. Plain and sterile.
First, there are eight men named Judas, or Jude, in the New Testament. Like Bob and Frank and Jim and Sam of the last generation or Liam and Noah and Ethan and Logan of this generation, Judas was an incredibly popular name during the first century. Why? Probably because of Judas Maccabee, the third son of Mattathias and the hero of the Maccabean Revolt of the Jews against their Syrian oppressors that resulted in the restoration of Temple worship and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the rededication of the Temple, which occurred on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 165 BC, usually in December, is celebrated to this day during the Jewish festival of lights— Hanukah.
As we name our children in honor of others we admire, respect or highly esteem, so did the Jews at the time of Christ.
Second, just so you won’t get confused, the English form of the Greek word “Judas” is Jude. In Hebrew, it is Judah. Nothing strange in that. My name, for example is Stephen— from the Greek, Stephanous, which means “crown” or “crowned one.” Jude means “confessor of Jehovah” or “praise of Jehovah” and, for those of you who are interested, was the 162nd most popular baby name in the US in 2013.
It is also noteworthy that Jude, who obviously shared the same name as the greatest apostate who ever lived, Judas Iscariot— wrote the sharpest and most direct, point-blank, in your face, condemnation of apostates found in all of Scripture and he wrote that scathing condemnation in vivid, frightening, no-holds-barred language. This may help to explain why most English versions of the New Testament use Jude and not his Greek name, Judas, as the title of the letter. Don’t want to confuse the good with the bad— and aren’t we glad?
Third, Jude begins his letter by identifying himself as the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). So when we look at the eight people named Judas or Jude in the New Testament, only two of them are associated with anyone named James.
The first is Judas (or, Jude), the son of James, who was an Apostle, one of the Twelve (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13) and was also known by his nickname as “Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus” (Matt. 10:3). Don’t confuse this Judas with the one who went down in infamy for betraying the Lord for a bag of junk silver (John 6:71). That was Judas Iscariot.
The other is Judas (or, Jude), the brother of James (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) who was also the half-brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19).
So we’ve now got two men named Judas (Jude) who were associated with a James: one is Judas the son of James and the other is Judas the brother of James. It doesn’t take an IQ of 180 to see that our man Jude is not the Apostle, whose father is named James, but the brother of James who became the leader of the church at Jerusalem and who happens to be the half-brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:19) which, obviously, would make Jude the half-brother of the Lord also. But, don’t worry, we will spend more time talking about James a couple of chapters from now.
Fourth, very little is known about Jude apart from the 25 short verses that bear his name. We see that he, along with his other brothers: James, Joses and Simon (Matt. 13:55), did not believe Jesus’ claims about being the Messiah, the Promised One, the Son of God until sometime after the resurrection (John 7:5). It is possible that during the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension Jesus personally appeared to Jude, as He did to his brother James, in one of His post-resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:7). He may have said, much like He did to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:25).
But even if He didn’t, by the time we see Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), Jude, along with his mother and brothers, were now counted among the 120 who met in the upper room faithfully waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit that would give birth to the church (Acts 1:14).
And since he was part of the original 120, Jude was most likely with Peter when he preached his powerful, but short, twenty-two verse sermon, that resulted in over 3,000 people coming to faith in Christ (Acts 2:41). Jude was probably one of those who “sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:45) and one “who continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47).
For Jude, the long journey was over. The eternal transaction had taken place. Jude had now come full circle, from unbelieving skeptic to committed follower of Jesus. Jesus was no longer his sibling, his older half-brother.
He was now his Lord and Master.
There is one last thing about Jude’s life that we can surmise from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. According to 1 Corinthians 9:5, it appears that Jude spent his time on earth serving the Lord as an itinerant evangelist. The passage reads: “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas (or Peter)?”
So, in the middle of a defense of his own apostleship, Paul cites the fact that Peter (Cephas), along with other unnamed apostles, and the “brothers of the Lord” can have their wives accompany them on their itinerant ministry. And when Paul says “brothers of the Lord” there is no reason to assume that Jude was not included in that group. So as the others were itinerant evangelists, so was Jude.
Finally, Jude was given some profound insight by the Holy Spirit not found anywhere else in Scripture, in either the Old or New Testament. He was blessed with an insight that the likes of Paul and John were not. Let me give you just one example of such hidden knowledge that was revealed to Jude, and to Jude alone.
Consider the following from Jude 1:14-15:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
Whoa, where did that come from? Jude tells us about the content of the sermons that Enoch preached in the days before the Flood. How did he know that?
Plus, there’s not a whole lot written on the pages of Scripture about Enoch anyway, yet— he is a major prophetic type and figure.
To recap what we know: from Genesis 5 we learn that when Enoch was sixty-five years old something happened to him that caused him to “walk with God” for the rest of his life (Gen. 5:23). What exactly happened? Simply this, he had a son and prophetically named him Methuselah, which means, by the way, “his death shall bring.” Really? What will Methuselah’s death bring? What will happen when he dies? If you follow the timeline in Genesis 5, you will quickly see that the death of Methuselah brought on the Flood, the great judgment of God on all mankind. And, just so you won’t miss the point, Methuselah lived longer than anyone else recorded in Scripture, an amazing 969 years (Gen. 5:27). Why? To show us the grace and mercy of God in the face of impending and certain judgment. Seems like something we might want to think about today, doesn’t it?
In addition to this, after walking with God for 300 years the Lord decides to remove him from the earth, to rapture him, to snatch him away, to “translate him” without Enoch seeing physical death (Gen. 5:24). Poof! Here today, gone tomorrow. Why? What is God trying to teach us with this fact about Enoch? Much. But you will have to wait until later for us to look at all that is behind this move of God.
Genesis 5:24 states: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Just like that, Enoch was gone.
It also says that Enoch was 365 years old when God took him. That’s one year for every day in our calendar. Do you think that’s a coincidence or could God be trying to tell us something else? Something to think about, isn’t it?
But what was Enoch’s life like during the 300 years he walked hand in hand with the Lord? What did he think? What did he talk about? What was the content of his life and the message of his sermons?
That is where the incredible revelations given to Jude come into play. Go back and read Jude 1:14-15 again. Do you see anything peculiar about the message of Enoch?
Jude tells us that Enoch preached about a time when the Lord would return with ten thousand of His saints (or, holy ones) to execute judgment on ungodly men for the ungodly things that they do.
When does that take place? At the Second Coming of Christ!
So Jude has such a special relationship with Jesus that the Holy Spirit decided, in his short, 25 verse letter, to reveal to him, and to us, the fact that Enoch preached about the Second Coming of Christ even before the Flood of Noah, the call of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the deportation to Babylon or the birth of the Church. And it was Jude, and Jude alone, that received this prophetic message.
I don’t know about you, but I want to hang with a guy like Jude and learn all I can from Him.
Do you feel the same way? Good.
Then let’s continue this journey together.
Coming next – Chapter Two: The Acts of the Apostates