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The Epistle of Jude: Against Gnosticism

Jesus' brother, Jude, wrote a letter to the Jewish Christian congregations in the first century, warning them about Gnosticism and also urging them to stand firm in faith against their Jewish critics.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 11

The Doubly Dead Tree

Jude says that the Gnostics were like hidden reefs and waterless clouds. His third analogy in Jude 12 presents the Gnostics as “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted.”

Fruitless Trees

At the autumn season, fruit trees ought to be full of ripe fruit, for that is the season of harvest. But Gnosticism, like Judaism, is comparable to a fruitless tree, as we see with the fruitless fig tree that Jesus cursed in Matt. 21:19,

19 And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer will there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

Later, Jesus explained further prophecy about this fruitless fig tree, saying in Matt. 24:32-34,

32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender [hapalos, full of sap, coming back to life after winter], and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The prophecy tells us that the Jewish state, represented by the fig tree, had failed to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom, having a great show of righteousness (“leaves”) but no fruit. Jesus then prophesied that it would never again bring forth fruit. Yet this “tree” was to come alive once again in a new season, bearing more leaves and thus deceiving men into thinking that it might bear fruit after all.

The point to note, however, is that Jesus’ curse would prevent it from ever bearing fruit again. The Jewish state began to put forth more leaves in the modern Zionist movement, culminating in 1948. This caused many prophecy teachers to proclaim that the Jewish state would soon accept Christ and, in essence, bear fruit to God. While there have been considerable numbers of individual Jews who have accepted Christ throughout the years, the nation itself (that is, the tree) will remain fruitless, as Jesus said.

Fig leaves are a false justification for sin, based on works and outward show of religious fervor. Fig leaves were unable to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:7), and leaves cannot cover any sin, not even sin committed by a Jew.

Jude’s Lesson

Scholars are agreed that Jude was a Jewish Christian living in Judea or Galilee in the first century. As such, he was probably the leader of a local congregation of Christian Jews or Galileans. No doubt he had written his epistle primarily to other Jewish congregations to warn them not to re-graft themselves to the old system of Judaism which the nation itself had continued to practice in the Jerusalem temple.

Gnosticism claimed to be spiritual, but it was based on a counterfeit of Pentecost. It was unfruitful, and any believers who were deceived by it would, in the end, be unfruitful. In other words, having escaped from the unfruitful fig tree of ritualistic Judaism, they were now in danger of following the spiritual Gnostic path toward unfruitfulness. Without producing the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life, it was only a “fuel” tree that could be chopped down and used in time of war to construct “siegeworks” (Deut. 20:20).

The danger in the first century, which concerned Jude, has again arisen in the past century. There is a powerful Gnostic faction in the hierarchy of the Roman Church, which has come out openly through the publication of Laurence Gardner’s books and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (book and movie). Hence, Jude’s warning applies specifically to Roman Catholics today.

Secondly, the principle of unfruitfulness is being played out in Christian Zionism as well, mostly because non-Catholic believers have been deceived by the great show of fig leaves without truly believing Jesus’ words in Matt. 21:19. They have mistaken leaves for fruit.

Israel and Judah

One key is to understand the difference between Judah and Israel. Judah was a nation of two tribes, while Israel included the ten tribes that were supposedly lost in Assyria. Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem through the metaphor of the old earthen jar that was to be broken in the valley of the son of Hinnom (Jer. 19:1-3, and 19:10-12). On the other hand, the house of Israel was compared to wet clay which, after being beaten down and destroyed as a nation, was to be remade into a new vessel (Jer. 18:3, 4, 6).

By understanding the difference in calling between Israel and Judah, we can see that there is no contradiction between Jesus’ curse on Judah and the blessing upon Israel that we find in Isaiah 27:6, which says,

6 In the days to come, Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout; and they will fill the face of the world with fruit.

Israel was to be fruitful, while Judah was to be fruitless. For individuals to become fruitful, they must be grafted into the tree of Israel, not into the fruitless fig tree of Judah. For further understanding of this, see my two books:

Who is a Jew?

Who is an Israelite?

The Doubly Dead and Uprooted Tree

Jude 12 also says that the Gnostics were like trees that were “doubly dead, uprooted.” Can a tree die twice? Was this a meaningless metaphor? The implication is that the tree died but was not uprooted. Hence, it came back to life until it was uprooted, killing it permanently.

This might be a reference to the cursed fig tree in Matt. 21:19 which was supposed to come alive again at the end of the age as prophesied in Matt. 24:32-34. Because it was to come back to life, it might then die a second time. Hence, it could become “doubly dead.”

But we have another biblical example of this in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the mighty tree that was defoliated, chopped down, leaving a stump with its roots intact so that it could regrow. The king related his dream in Daniel 4:10-15, saying,

10 Now these were in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew large and became strong, and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all, the beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it. 13 I was looking in the vision in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven. 14 He shouted out and spoke as follows: “Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; let the beasts flee from under it, and the birds from its branches. 15 Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground”….

In the time of Daniel, this applied to the king himself, who became insane and lost his throne for a season, but afterward he was restored and gave glory to God (Dan. 4:31, 32, 36). It shows that the tree had been chopped down but that it was able to come back to life.

Secondarily, the tree represented Babylon itself, the first of four kingdoms that were destined to rule the earth after the fall of Jerusalem in 604 B.C. Daniel 2 and 7 give details about these four kingdoms.

The successive kingdoms imply that each would fall in turn, including Babylon, which fell to the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:30, 31). That was when the kingdom of Babylon itself was defoliated and chopped down. It left a stump, however, because it was to rise again in the future under the prophetic name, “Mystery Babylon” (Rev. 17:5 KJV). Yet once again, this prophetic “tree” was to be destroyed, this time being uprooted so that it could not regrow.

Mystery Babylon was also portrayed as a millstone that was to be cast into the sea, as we read in Rev. 18:20, 21, and 24

20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her. 21 And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer”… 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on earth.

The four world empires technically concluded their time from 1914-1917 at the end of “seven times” (7 x 360 years). But then Babylon arose the second time in a new form called Mystery Babylon, and this dominated the past century until 2014-2017, when the time came for it to be uprooted and fully destroyed.

Connecting the Two Trees

The Babylonian tree was to be cast into the sea as a great millstone (Rev. 18:21), after which time it would be seen as the entity that had slain the prophets and saints all the way back to the beginning of time (Rev. 18:24).

This is strangely similar to Jesus’ prophetic condemnation of Jerusalem and Judah in Matt. 23:33-37,

33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell [gehenna]? 34 Therefore, behold I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! ....

Jesus said that Jerusalem would be charged with murdering all of the prophets and saints dating back to “righteous Abel.” John said that Babylon would be charged with “the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on earth.” What is the connection?

In Matt. 21:33-40 Jesus told a parable about the vineyard and how Jerusalem had killed the prophets throughout history, culminating with the murder of the “son” of the vineyard owner (i.e., Jesus Himself). He then let the religious leaders judge themselves in Matt. 21:40, 41, asking them what the vineyard owner ought to do to those murderers.

41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

Jesus agreed with them and then rendered His own verdict in Matthew 21:42-44,

42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation [Israel] producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

Jesus was referring to two stones in prophecy. The first was “the stone which the builders rejected,” which was a reference to Psalm 118:22. In other words, Jerusalem had rejected Him as the Messiah. The second stone was a reference to Dan. 2:34, 35,

34 You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

This “stone” fell upon the feet of the statue which represented the four world empires. The stone then ground it to powder and the wind carried the dust away. Hence, Jesus referred to this stone, saying, “it will scatter him like dust.”

The point is that Jesus was warning the leaders of Jerusalem not to be found sitting on the feet of this image at the end of the age when the stone was ready to crush its “feet.” The Jewish leaders, however, believed that it was their destiny to rule the world, and so in the past 200 years they gradually took power through money and banking until they were able to usurp the power of Mystery Babylon.

So when the stone crushes Mystery Babylon (as it is now doing), Jerusalem too will be destroyed, as Jer. 19:10, 11 has prophesied. And because the law of authority makes leaders liable for the sins of the entire entity, Jerusalem has been made liable for the murder of all the prophets, saints, and even the apostles themselves (Rev. 18:20). Their liability dates back to the murder of Abel, Jesus says, even long before the city of Jerusalem was built.

Jesus warned them, saying, “How shall you escape the sentence of Gehenna?” (Matt. 23:33). This was a reference to Jeremiah’s sentence (Jer. 19:2) upon Judah and Jerusalem when he was sent to smash the clay jar in the valley of the son of Hinnom (Gehenna in Greek). Gehenna is the prophetic place of divine judgment upon Jerusalem.

Summary of the Two Trees

In summary, Jude 12 spoke of a tree being “doubly dead, uprooted.” This was first a refence to an unfruitful tree, and so we find that the fig tree of Judah was unfruitful. Jerusalem “died” in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed it. It came back to life in 1948, bearing leaves, just as Jesus prophesied. But because it was yet under the curse, it could bear only leaves but no fruit. Hence, the day will come when the city is destroyed again, just as Jeremiah prophesied.

Jesus said that a generation would arise that would tell this “fig tree” and “mountain” (i.e., Kingdom) “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and “it shall happen” (Matt. 21:21).

At the same time, the tree of Mystery Babylon will also be uprooted and cast into the sea. Only then will the underlying immoral and murderous nature of Babylon be exposed for all to see, for Babylon will be charged with the liability for all the blood shed on the earth.

It is clear that Babylon is also Jerusalem, as is suggested in Revelation 11:8,

8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city [Babylon] which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified [Jerusalem].

When these prophecies are fulfilled, then will Jude’s word be fulfilled when he describes the fruitless tree as being “doubly dead, uprooted.” Never again will it rise to rule the earth, for the Stone Kingdom will be ruled by those who bear fruit to God, or as Dan. 7:22 (KJV) puts it, “the saints of the Most High.” Their Kingdom will be the New Jerusalem, not the old city. Hagar-Jerusalem will be cast out, and Sarah, the New Jerusalem, will be established (Gal. 4:25, 26, 30).