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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 3

The Angels Who Fell

Jude gives us a second biblical example proving that people’s initial faith may not endure. After setting forth the example of the Israelites in the wilderness, he goes on to give the example of the angels who sinned.

The Nephilim

Jude 6 says,

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal [aidios] bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.

No doubt this is a reference to the event in Gen. 6:1, 2, which says,

1 Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

Jude was familiar not only with the biblical account but also with the book of Enoch, which gives a more elaborate and detailed account of angels taking earthly women and producing giants (Nephilim) in the earth. The fact that there were giants in those days is well established in biblical history, beginning with Gen. 6:4,

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward [i.e., after the flood], when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

The flood was sent to destroy these Nephilim (“giants”), but yet centuries after the flood there were still offspring of the Nephilim on the earth. Either the flood failed to destroy them all, or there was another occasion “afterward” when angels took the daughters of men as wives. Because the Nephilim were still in existence in the days of Moses, it is apparent that a second incident occurred after the flood. These later Nephilim (“giants”) terrified the Israelites when the twelve spies gave their report. This is why most Israelites lacked the faith to enter the Promised Land. Num. 13:32, 33 says,

32 So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33 There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The tribe of Anak (i.e., Anakim) was the family of Nephilim that had dominated Canaan. Their name, Anak, means a neck or necklace, indicating that they were probably known for their long necks or (as some suggest) for their gold necklaces.

The Rephaim

A different tribe of Nephilim were known as Rephaim, who lived on the east side of the Jordan River in the land of Bashan. The name Rephaim comes from rapha, “to heal,” and may have referred to their use of balsam oil that was famous for its healing properties. Balsam was grown in Gilead, and the Israelites who displaced the Rephaim learned the secret of distilling it. So Jer. 8:22 asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?”

The Israelites destroyed the last of the Rephaim after Moses led Israel to the land of Moab, preparing them to cross the Jordan. Deut. 3:11-13 tells us,

11 “(For only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bedstead was an iron bedstead; it is in Rabbah of the sons of Ammon. Its length was nine cubits and its width four cubits by ordinary cubit.) 12 So we took possession of this land at that time…. 13 And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh, all the region of Argob (concerning all Bashan, it is called the land of Rephaim).

Og’s bed was nine cubits in length according to the ordinary cubit of six handbreadths (19.8 inches). Og’s bed, then, was 14.85 feet long, which suggests that Og himself was probably about 13 feet tall.

Whatever happened in Gen. 6:4, these “sons of God,” or “angels,” as Jude calls them, produced Nephilim, which name is from the Hebrew root word naphal, “to fall.” Hence, we get the term “fallen angels,” that is, angels who fell into rebellion or apostasy.

Other Hebrew interpreters explain this by saying that the angels had attacked—i.e., had fallen upon their victims. In this case, the victims are said to be the daughters of men who were forcibly taken from their parents. Whatever the explanation, they believed that the angels had “fallen” in taking the daughters of men as wives.

Mount Hermon

The result of this was that giants (Nephilim) ruled that area near Mount Hermon, where the angels had actually descended in Genesis 6:2. The Book of Enoch, chapter 13, verses 6 and 7 tells us,

“And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.”

The name Hermon is from charam, which is variously translated “ban, devotion, curse.” For example, in Joshua 6:18 Jericho was put under charam, which meant that all of the gold, silver, bronze, and iron were devoted to God. Anyone who violated the ban was put under a curse—such as what happened with Achan (Joshua 7:1).

According to the book of Enoch, the mountain was given the name Hermon on account of an oath that had bound the fallen angels together in some sort of covenant. The implication is that if any of them broke ranks or refused to assist each other in time of need, they would come under a curse that was enforceable by the others.

The Book of Jubilees 4:15 also dates this event in the days of Jared, specifically in the tenth Jubilee from Adam, in the sixth year of the third “week” (of years), the year 460-461 from Adam. This was indeed when Jared was born, but the author’s opinion that this was when the Nephilim took the daughters of men cannot be verified by Scripture. The accounts in Jubilees and Enoch tell us that Jared’s son, Enoch, later reprimanded these fallen ones and their offspring for their sin.

Mount Hermon is Sion

Deuteronomy 4:48 says,

48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, even as far as Mount Sion (that is, Hermon).

This is important, because we learn from Heb. 12:22 (KJV) that Mount Sion is the rallying place for the true Church.

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.

Mount Sion, or Hermon, was the place where Jesus was transfigured in Matt. 17:1, 2. We know this because Jesus had just taken His disciples to Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13), where Peter had made his great confession in verse 16. Caesarea Philippi (the old city of Dan) was north of Samaria at the south base of Mount Hermon. It was where the Grotto of Pan was located, which the Jews called “the gates of hell” (Matt. 16:18).

Jesus took three of His disciples up Mount Sion (Hermon), where He was transfigured and where God pronounced Him to be “My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 17:5). In other words, Jesus was the TRUE Son of God, whereas the fallen angels were FALSE “sons of God” attempting to fulfill prophecy in an unlawful manner.

The angels who sinned apparently understood that the idea of Sonship involved some sort of union between heaven and earth, but they attempted to fulfill this unlawfully. The true fulfillment, of course, was when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and begat Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:18). We too have the authority to become sons of God by being begotten by the Holy Spirit through the seed of the gospel, which begets Christ in us through hearing and believing the Word.

The true sons of God, then, look to Mount Sion as the New Covenant mount. With Jesus as our example, we are given the hope of transfiguration or “change” (1 Cor. 15:51). In the end, to be sons of God means that heaven and earth have come together in marriage to bring forth glorified bodies. That is the ultimate goal of the feast of Tabernacles, as I have shown in other studies.

Jude’s Teaching

In his epistle, Jude brought up the angels that sinned in order to tell us that not only men but angels too might fall. The Israelites had all been justified by faith when they left Egypt, but their faith lacked endurance. The angels presumably had been perfect at one time but yet they still “fell” (naphal). Both of these examples were designed to warn the church about the Gnostics whose founder had believed the gospel and was baptized but whose heart was later exposed (Acts 8:23).

Both examples show the distinction also between the church and the overcomers in the topic of Sonship. Sonship is progressive, for although a son is technically a son at birth, he is not a full son until he is mature. A minor is no different from a servant, or slave, Paul says in Gal. 4:1. An immature son is a work in progress, but the father does not entrust him with the family estate until he is old enough to be responsible for its use.

So also the Israelites were born out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1), but most of them failed to reach spiritual maturity when they arrived at the border of the Promised Land. Their heart of rebellion was exposed when they believed the evil report.

Likewise, the so-called “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2 attempted to achieve Sonship in an unlawful manner through rebellion, and so they too were disqualified.

Time proves the quality of one’s faith.

Both of these stories are packed with lessons for the church to learn, but Jude’s main point is to let the church know that they must be on their guard against those who profess Christ but who do not remain in His teaching. This shows the importance of enduring to the end.