Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle which is written by Jude. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first sixteen verses of the epistle itself. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find the final epistle which was written within the New Testament. Once the book Jude draws to a close there is only one more book in the Bible, and that book is the prophetic revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to admit that I have long been fascinated by the New Testament book of Jude, for within its passages is a tremendous word of warning and caution for the church of Jesus Christ. The more I have studied the prophetic book of Jude throughout the years the more I have come face to face with the fact that Jude, the brother of James has an incredible amount of insight into the dangers which faced the church of Jesus Christ. In fact, when you read the words which are found and contained within this book you will find that the sole purpose of this book was to earnestly and passionately contend for the faith which is found in the person of Jesus Christ. As the New Testament book of Jude opens it does so with Jude speaking concerning and to those who were sanctified by the Father in heaven, and kept in, by and through the person of Jesus Christ who is our Lord. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that as we read this New Testament book we recognize and understand who it was written by, and who it was to. When the epistle opens up it does so with an emphatic greeting and declaration—one that not only provides the name of the author, but also who the epistle itself was written to. In the first verse of this chapter we find Jude acknowledging himself as writing the epistle, as well as referring to himself as the brother of James, and a servant of Jesus Christ. Whats more, is that we discover that this epistle was written unto a very specific group of people.
As the New Testament book of Jude opens up, it does so with a powerful declaration that Jude Himself was a serving of Jesus Christ. I happen to find it absolutely and incredibly interesting in reading these words, for if you study the date around which this epistle was written you will find that it was written around 66 AD. If there is one thing I can’t help but notice when I read and consider the epistles which are found, and the epistles which were written by the various New Testament authors, it’s that there is a marked and noticeable difference between how the epistles written by the apostle Paul, how the epistles written by the apostle peter, and how the epistles which were written by James and Jude were opened. If you study the opening verses of each of these New Testament epistles you will notice that many of the epistles were written between 45 AD to 66 AD. Each and every one of the epistles which was written by the apostle Paul were written between and during this time period, and as such you will find the apostle beginning and opening up his epistles with an introduction to himself as the author. Even the epistles which were written by James and Jude began with an introduction to the author, and who the author was. In each of these epistles you will find the respective author referring to themselves in some capacity and some connection to the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul regularly referred to himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also introduced and spoke of himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even James and Jude spoke of and referred to themselves in direct connection and direct relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they openly proclaimed their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle peter himself introduced in his epistles his direct relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t until we come to the epistles and writings of the apostle John that we find nothing which reveals the identity of the epistles, nor do we really find any words concerning who the epistles were written to.
One of the most intriguing realities concerning the various epistles which were written is that a vast majority of them were written during a very specific time period—roughly between 40 AD and 70 AD. Many of the epistles which are found in the New Testament were written during this time period between the birth and formation of the church of Jesus Christ and the destruction of the second Jewish temple which stood in Jerusalem. It is safe to say that although there was a great persecution which broke out towards and against the Christians within the city of Jerusalem, and as such, it caused them to be scattered among the nations and regions of the earth. During the period of time between the birth of the church and the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the destruction of the physical Temple which stood in Jerusalem, there was a relative sense of peace toward the Christians and the church of Jesus Christ. It really wouldn’t be until the destruction of the second Jewish temple by the Roman tenth legion in 70 AD that a mighty persecution broke out against the Christians which existed within the Roman Empire. One thing that is imperative to recognize and understand is that once the temple which stood in Jerusalem was destroyed a great persecution broke out against the church of Jesus Christ, as well as against the Christians which existed in the earth during that time. When the Jewish temple was destroyed—although many believed Nero was responsible for the destruction—Nero Himself blames the Christians for the destruction of the Jewish Temple. With the accusation against the Christians like a foreboding cloud which shadowed over the Christians, a great and might persecution began to break out against the church and body of Jesus Christ. It would be during the reign of Nero that the greatest persecution against the church of Jesus Christ broke out against the church of Jesus Christ and against His disciples and followers. It would be during and around that time that Nero began inciting all of Rome against the church and body of Jesus Christ, and an intense persecution broke out against the believers in and followers of Jesus Christ.
As I sit here and consider how the New Testament epistle of Jude began and opened, I can’t help but think that Jude—as well as the other New Testament authors—wrote during a time when it was acceptable and okay to speak of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Between the time the church was formed and given birth to on the day of Pentecost in the early 30’s AD, until the time of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70, the church of Jesus Christ experienced relative peace and safety in the surrounding areas and regions outside Judaea and Jerusalem. It is true the first and initial persecution which broke out against the church of Jesus Christ broke out within the city of Jerusalem, however, we must recognize and understand that once many of the Christians were scattered abroad throughout the various nations and regions of the earth, the persecution, the animosity, the hatred, and the affliction and opposition toward and against the Christians seemed to subside and die down. There was a period of about forty years where the church of Jesus Christ experienced relative peace and safety in the midst of the earth bearing and carrying the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. It wouldn’t be until the year 70 AD when under the control and authority of Nero emperor of Rome Jerusalem was invaded, and the Jewish Temple was destroyed. Again—although many believed that Nero himself was behind and responsible for the destruction of the Jewish Temple, history reveals how Nero himself blamed the Christians for the destruction of the Temple. It would be Nero himself who would incite Rome against Christianity—not only because of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, but also because of a great fire which broke out within the city of Rome itself. Consider the fact that at one point there were two fires which took place in two cities miles apart from each other, as there was a fire which broke out within the city of Rome itself, as well as a fire which broke out in Jerusalem due to the destruction of the Jewish Temple. During this time, it was Nero himself who blamed the Christians for the recent destruction and devastation that took place in both Jerusalem and Rome, thus inciting much of Rome against the church of Jesus Christ, and against the followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. It would be around the year 70 AD when all hell would seem to break loose against the church of Jesus Christ, as a great and mighty wave and flood of persecution broke out against the church of Jesus Christ.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which we find our Lord Himself speaking and proclaiming unto His disciples in the Olivet Discourse to be incredibly applicable in this instance, for His words bring us face to face with an incredible amount of instruction concerning the times in which many Christians lived around and after the year. 70 AD. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples, which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the third verse of the chapter you will find the following words:
“See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be throne down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that hue be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against k indomitable: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows…
“ Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come…
“ When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together…
“ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is not yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away…
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (matthew 25:3-42).
It is quite obvious and clear when reading the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples that there was coming a time upon the earth that would be incredibly trying and difficult—particularly and especially for Christians and the body of Christ. Towards the beginning of the words which Jesus spoke and declared on this particular occasion we find Him emphatically declaring unto His disciples that they would be delivered up to be afflicted, and would be killed. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that they would bear hated of all nations for His name’s sake, and as a direct result of this, many will be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. This is actually quite interesting, for not only did Jesus declare that His disciples and followers would be hated of all nations, but Jesus also declared that many would be offended, many would betray one another, and shall hate one another. THERE’S A WHOLE LOT OF HATRED GOING ON AROUND HERE! The more I read, and the more I study the words which our Lord Himself spoke, the more I am coming face to face with the incredible reality that when He sent us forth into the world, He didn’t send us forth to be loved, He didn’t send us forth to be received, He didn’t send us forth to be accepted. When Jesus sent us forth into the earth as labourers within the harvest, he sent us forth as those who would be hated for His name’s sake—those who would be persecuted, afflicted, and oppressed by those around them. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that if the world hated Him, they would hate them also, for a servant is not above the master. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples when He sent them out two by two into the harvest to carry out and be an extension of His work within the earth. If you turn and direct your attention to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the account of our Lord sending out the twelve disciples two by two into the harvest. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture beginning with the fifth verse:
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall bear more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city…
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beward of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light, and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the Houston’s. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (matthew 10:5-33).
The words which we find in this particular passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that when Jesus sends us out, He does so by sending us forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Oh, please don’t miss this incredible reality, for we would like to think that when Jesus sends us forth He sends us forth as sheep in the midst of sheep. The truth of the matter, however, is that Jesus never declared that He would send us forth as sheep among sheep, but rather, he would send us forth as sheep among wolves. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for this reality must ultimately shape the way we think, and the way we conduct our lives. Notice that Jesus declared He was sending us forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, and then went on to instruct us to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Immediately after Jesus instructed us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He would go on to declare unto the disciples that they would be delivered up to the councils, and they would be scourged by men in the synagogues, and they would be brought before governors and kings for His sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. If you continue reading in this particular discourse and dialogue between Jesus and His disciples, you will find that he would again declare unto them that they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Please note that this is the first instance where Jesus would declare unto His disciples that they would be hated among men for His name’s sake—one that would be followed up by a second declaration given during His Olivet Discourse. With that being said, it is also imperative that we understand that there is still yet a third declaration and warning unto His disciples concerning their being hated among men, and their being hated by all nations—one that is found in the New Testament gospel of John. If you turn and direct your attention to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, you will find the apostle John recording the dialogue and discourse which took place between Jesus and His disciples in the upper room prior to His betrayal in the garden. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples beginning with the first verse of the sixteenth chapter of John’s gospel:
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.A ll things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father” (John 16:1-16).
These words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in the Upper Room came directly on the heels of the words which He spoke earlier on during that night—words which are found and recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the same New Testament book. Consider if you will the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter beginning with the seventeenth verse of the chapter:
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pas, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:17-25).
When the New Testament epistle of Jude opens, it does so with Jude referring to himself as the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, and writing unto them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. It’s worth noting how Jude opens and begins his epistle—particularly and especially in light of how the apostle John opened his epistles—for while Jude spoke of himself as the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, John made no such mention concerning his identity when writing such epistles. It is absolutely unmistakeable when reading the various writings found within the New Testament that a vast majority of the epistles which were written were done so during a period of relative peace and safety for the Christians and body of Christ. Men such as Jude could write freely their allegiance and their relationship to Jesus Christ, for there was very little fear of repercussion or animosity toward and against them. Once the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem took place, and once a great fire burned in the city of Rome, Christians found themselves against unimaginable odds, as they were now being blamed for the fire which burned within the city of Rome. What’s more, is that Christians were the only ones within the Roman Empire who would not declare Caesar as Lord, and would not worship him as divine. This caused quite a stir within the Roman Empire, as Nero himself was infuriated by their alleged insolence in refusing to acknowledge him as Lord, and refusing to acknowledge him as divine. Much like Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah during the days of Daniel refused to bow down and worship the image of gold which Nebuchadnezzar had set up, so there were countless Christians who could not and would not bring themselves to declare that Caesar was lord. For countless Christians, this refusal to admit that Caesar was Lord would cost them their lives, as many would be burned alive, or crucified upon a cross, or cast into the arena where they would be slaughtered by gladiators, or mauled to death by ferocious beasts. For many, refusing to acknowledge Caesar as lord would cost them their homes, their possessions, and everything they had, and would even cause a great number of them to be cast into prison. When Jude wrote his epistle—although he didn’t write it during such a time—he nonetheless felt compelled to warn the saints and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the tremendous dangers of those who would creep in unawares among them in order to deceive them.
In the third verse of this epistle Jude declared how he gave all diligence to write unto them of the common salvation, for it was needful for him to write unto them, and exhort them that they should earnestly contend for the faith was was once delivered unto the saints. It was directly in light of this contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints that Jude felt compelled to warn them of the tremendous dangers which faced the Christians and saints of God—namely, those that would creep in among them unawares to deceive and lead them astray. I have long believed that two of the greatest tactics and strategies of the enemy during the last days will be persecution and deception, for if the enemy can’t come against you with persecution and succeed, he will most certainly come against you with deception in order to lead you astray. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for through persecution, affliction and suffering the adversary will cause many to be offended with each other, and even offended with the living God, and with His Christ. The enemy and adversary will seek to cause men and women to hate one another, and hate one another so vehemently that they will betray one another unto the death. Should this first assault and attack of persecution, affliction and suffering not work, the enemy and adversary will then seek to come against the disciples and saints of God through deception as he seeks to infiltrate their ranks with false brethren, false teachers, false apostles, and false prophets. It is this latter tactic which Jude wrote about in order that he might warn those who were sanctified by the living God, and those who were preserved in the Lord Jesus Christ. I leave you with the words which Jude wrote unto the saints of God in this epistle as a word of warning and caution concerning one of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies against the church of Jesus Christ—namely, deception and leading them astray. Beginning with the fourth verse of this epistle we find the following words:
“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 ending the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will the Hereford 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. 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. 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. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 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. 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. 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 4-11).