Three men of historical Biblical significance bear the same name. The original translation, Ioudas, was very common in ancient times, especially among Jews. Judah Maccabeus was the Jewish hero who led a revolt against the wicked king Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC, Judas Iscariot was the disciple who betrayed Jesus, and Jude was the brother of Jesus who wrote one of the shortest books in the New Testament. But all three of them had the same name; we English-speaking people have assigned different translations of their names to help differentiate them.
Antiochus Epiphanes was the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, which reigned from 312 to about 63 BC. In some prophetic writings, he is known as the First Antichrist, as his actions were eerily similar to the man of sin described in Revelation. Five hundred years earlier, the prophet Daniel had foreseen the reign of this terrible king, represented as a little horn. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Daniel 8:9).
Antiochus at first was a benevolent ruler, but when he suddenly turned on the Jews, his armies invaded Jerusalem and slaughtered everyone in their paths. As if that weren’t enough, he then defiled the temple of Solomon, killing the high priests, setting up unholy sacrifices, and proclaiming that he should be worshiped as a god. Verses 11-12: Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
The Seleucid Empire was one of the most powerful in the world at the time, but at the transgression of the temple, the broken Jews had had enough. The revolt that followed is one of the most miraculous in history, as Judah Maccabeus took a destroyed nation with no army and successfully led them in a campaign to win back their freedom. Daniel 8:13-14: How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. The book of Daniel accurately predicted even the tiniest detail: exactly 2,300 days passed from the moment Antiochus desecrated the temple to the day the Seleucid armies retreated in defeat.
To this day, the Jews celebrate Hanukah to commemorate the rededication of the temple. Judah Maccabeus became a national hero for generations to come for winning back freedom for God’s people, in the same way George Washington would be considered a hero to us today. For this reason, his name was very common amongst people during the time of Jesus.
Jude was one of four brothers to Jesus, called Judas in Matthew 13:55: Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? Though they are not named or numbered, we can deduce from verse 56 that Jesus also had sisters. And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? Little detail exists of his life and journey following the Lord, but we can gather from his one short book, near the end of the New Testament, that He was a passionate warrior for truth.
To decode the 25 verses of Jude, we have to begin by comparing him to the man he after whom he was likely named. Judah Maccabeus was a warrior who led his people to an impossible victory against Antiochus’s armies. Jude was a warrior for Christ who led a crusade against false doctrine.
His book exposes false prophets in the house of God. Just like Antiochus’s armies invaded Jerusalem, Satan’s liars had infiltrated the churches. Just like the Seleucids had blasphemed God in the temple, teachers of false doctrines had desecrated the pulpits. 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 (Jude 4).
First, these men were “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.” They had abused the grace of God, saying that it was a license to sin. Lasciviousness is a Bible term for carnal lust. Clearly they were claiming that God’s children could engage in lustful acts, including fornication and adultery, and they would be alright because God’s grace would cover them.
In spite of this clear Biblical evidence to the contrary, the church today has largely swallowed this same lie. Churches across all denominations now teach against holiness. Living free from sin is considered an impossible standard, and under the bloody banner of “nobody can live free from sin,” church leaders are marching their congregations en masse down the road to Hell. Members from deacons to elders and even pastors openly live in sin, embracing homosexuality and pornography in the shadow of Satan’s lie that they will still go to Heaven.
And according to Jude, if we teach this, we are actually denying that Jesus Christ is Lord. How can we call ourselves Christians and remove the standards of holiness set by the Word of God?
Jude starts his epistle in love, but just like Judah Maccabeus inspired God’s people to fight, he encourages the reader to seek what is right. Verse 3: 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. We can date the book between 65 and 80 AD, about 30 years after the Day of Pentecost. Clearly in this short period of time, churches were already beginning to believe that Christianity had changed, and that the power of God was no longer available. Just like today, they believed that the miracles and healings of the Early Church were over, and that men could no longer be as anointed as Peter, Paul, and John. But Jude let them know that they had to contend for the same faith that fell on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
After verse 4, Jude uses two examples from the scriptures to fight the doctrine of “once-saved, always-saved.” He reminds us that after God led the children of Israel to freedom from Egypt, he then reined judgment on them for their disbelief. Verse 5: 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. God was good to deliver the Jews, but they rewarded Him by grumbling and complaining, and He killed those who doubted and let their carcasses rot in the desert. Why then should we today believe that we are exempt from His law? The Lord has many to apologize to if this is the case. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein (Romans 6:1-2)?
The next example refers to punishment enacted upon the angels. Verse 6: 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 angels referred to here could be the third that Satan took with him as he was cast from Heaven, but since it describes them being kept in chains in darkness until Judgment Day, it could also be the sons of God from Genesis 6:1-2: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
These angels saw that human females were beautiful, and burned with lust, came down and married them. The children produced were abnormally large, strong men. Verse 4: 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. If Jude is referring to this incident, then God saw that it wasn’t right for angels to marry women and locked them up in Hell, where they are still awaiting their judgment. This punishment again is reference in Job 4:18: Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly.
These angels at one time had a home in Heaven, in His presence, and they chose to leave because lust lured them away. If this law of judgment applies to angels, why wouldn’t it to us?
But Jude keeps going, invoking Sodom and Gomorrah in his tirade against the false doctrine. Verse 7: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, 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. These wicked cities were steeped in fornication and homosexuality, and God did not spare them. But Jude doesn’t just describe a fire that incinerated those cities; he mentions “the vengeance of eternal fire.” No doubt the fires that cremated the people pale in comparison to the fires of Hell still burning them today.
And they are the same fires we will end up in if we do not heed the warning of Jude and take a stand against the false doctrine of eternal security that is taking over the church.