In interpreting and understanding biblical text historical, biblical, and literary context is most essential. We do not know much about Jude or his life. However, there is more than enough historical information about Jude to set a context for when he wrote, why he wrote, and to whom he wrote one of the more theologically rich epistles of the New Testament.
There are two lists of Jesus’ family found in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, and “Judas/Jude” is listed as the last among the four brothers of Jesus - James, Joseph, and Simon; with Jude's “sisters” interspersed among them. So, Jude could have been four or more siblings removed from Jesus, meaning it is more than likely that he was a teenager when Jesus died. It is also true that Jude and his brothers were unbelievers during Jesus’ life according to John 7:5 and Mark 3:21, and like James he may have been converted during a resurrection appearance of Jesus as was mentioned by Paul his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:7).
Acts 1:14 tells us that Mary “and the brothers of Jesus” were part of the 120 gathered in the upper room during the time between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, so they were all believers by then. 1 Corinthians 9:5 tells us that Jesus’ brothers engaged in the same type of apostolic missionary work as Paul, and that likely included Jude. Based on this epistle, Jude had become an influential leader in the church, based on the distinct tone of authority in this letter. According to early Church historian Eusebius (History 3.19–20), his family continued in the faith and served the Lord, and there is historical evidence that his grandsons were arrested and forced to appear before the emperor Domitian to answer for their loyalty to Rome.
It is obvious that Jude is one of the more concise epistles in the New Testament, and yet it does contain as we will find, personal invitations from the author to be challenged by very deep and intense theological perspectives.
For example: In verses 20–21 Jude invites, “Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit … await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ … keep yourselves safe in God’s love.” Each of those invitations are theologically deep and spiritually intense even in our room here today.
But what theological context and invitation do you hear from Jude in those two short verses?
Jude's invitation is threefold: Pray in the Power - Await the Mercy - Keep Yourselves Safe
Jude's theological context is also threefold - Trinitarian: Power of the Holy Spirit - Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ – The Safety and Security in God's Love
We can see what is evident from statements such as this is the understanding and awareness of the significant presence and role of each Divine Person of the Trinity as they purposefully manifest (come to life) themselves in the lives of those in the Christian community. Jude refers to The Holy Spirit only in verse 19, and although the least mentioned it is not an indication of the Spirit's value and priority. Jude will say to us that people who are false teachers and heretics in fact, do not have the Holy Spirit. And that Bible believing Christians should value and prioritize the working and presence of the Spirit when we pray and worship (Spirit and in Truth). While the false teachers may claim to trend spiritually and possess a revelation from God behind their theories and beliefs, Jude makes it clear that the presence of the Spirit is the line of distinction between what is merely a skill set of man and an actual move and manifestation of God. Jude will also conclude that it is the truly faithful to God, and not charismatic and controlling leaders, that are the inspired and led by Him.
Here is another deep and intense Biblical context that Jude brings to his audience.
God is Central to the Work of the Spirit
The love of God opens the epistle (verse 1) and God as “Savior” closes the epistle (verse 25). God is our Father (verse 1), His “grace” defines salvation in contrast to the perversion of it by the false teachers (verse 4), and the love of God preserves us (verse 21). As God the Savior, He not only “keeps” us here and now (moment to moment) in the present, but in the future He will “bring” or deliver us into His eternal “presence.” Jude will tell his audience, that God's essential and central presence in our temporal lives assures us of the security and comfort of His love and sustaining grace but also the central presence of God grants us welcome and access to the eternal life that God and God alone gives us through the sacrifice and redemption of Yeshua, Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God is deserving of our praise, honor, and glory (verses. 24–25).
It should not be surprising then that through the power of the Holy Spirit it is Christ Jesus who permeates Jude’s epistle. In his opening salutation, Jude (in true humility) presents himself as the “slave of Jesus Christ” (verse 1), indicating that Jesus was his Master and Lord. The Lordship and authority of Christ Jesus was the very thing the false teachers were denying (verse 4). Our biblical truth and context for our Christian faith is validated in that Jesus is at all times the sovereign and cosmic (universal) Lord, standing alongside God and has been given dominion over all creation. True biblical theology must begin and end by acknowledging the Lordship and authority of Jesus. In fact, Jude describes the return of Jesus in verses 14–15 by quoting from 1 Enoch 1:9.
[The Book of Enoch (Hebrew; maṣḥafa hēnok) is an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. The writings of Enoch are considered one of the oldest pieces of Biblical literature ever discovered]
The context here is regarding God’s coming in judgment, transforming Enoch’s vision of a manifestation of God into a promise revealing the Parousia: The Lord God the Messiah is coming.
As Lord, Jesus will be eschatological judge and will destroy all false-teachers and heretics for their blasphemy and immorality. Jude's letter is framed by Jesus’ power to keep the faithful safe—God’s preservation of his people will be conducted in “Jesus Christ” (verse 1), and that protection and presentation at the end-times judgment will occur “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 25). In fact, Jude presents Jesus as the one who “rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt” (verse 5), as a precursor and type and shadow of Jesus delivering his people now.
In completion (He is enough), it is “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 21) that will “bring you eternal life.” Throughout Jude the work of God (preserving, coming, judging, bringing eternal life) is conducted and under the authority and mercy of Christ.
Sin and salvation are another primary theological theme in Jude. It is important to acknowledge that two primary problems are stressed in Jude:
First - The rejection of the sovereignty of God and Christ (verse 4)
Second - Giving in and giving up to the compulsive desire of our flesh (verse 4, 16, 19)—perversion, greed, and slander.
Jude contends that these sins “contaminate” or “pollute” the lives of those who commit them (verse 23). The result of that kind of moral depravity of will be “condemnation” (verses 4, 6, 15) and certain “destruction” (verses 5, 10–11, 23). And yet, God through Christ has shown mercy (verses 2, 21–23) by providing salvation and allowing his people to rescue such from the “flames of judgment” (verse 23). Salvation means to embrace the faith entrusted once to all and for all time (verse 3) and the “marvelous grace” of God (verse 4), to dwell in the power of the Holy Spirit (verse 20), and to center on the assurance and security to be found only in Christ (verses 1, 21, 24).
The final aspect of Jude's Biblical and historical context is demonstrated within the same kind of final eschatology (death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul) found in 2 Peter. Again, two aspects are emphasized.
First - the final judgment of God is stressed throughout: The fallen angels are imprisoned, “waiting for the great day of judgment” (verse 6), and Sodom and Gomorrah were “destroyed by fire” to “serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment” (verse 7). The final destruction of the false teachers (verses 10–11, 13) the anti-typical of these judgments, and when the adherents are rescued, they are “snatched… from the flames of judgment” (verse 23).
Second - God's final judgment will take place in accordance with the second coming of the Christ Jesus the Messiah, with his holy angels (verses 14–15). At that return, which is awaited by the saints, God’s “mercy” will bring “eternal life” (verse 21) and bring the faithful “into his glorious presence” (verse 24).
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