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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 4


Before continuing to the next verses in Jude, we need to go back to previous verses and explain a few of the minor points raised.

The Sovereignty of God

First, in Jude 4 we read that the Gnostic infiltrators had been “long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” Jude recognized the sovereignty of God, and so he attributes the existence of Gnostics to the divine plan. No doubt he agreed with Paul when he wrote in Rom. 9:22 about vessels of dishonor that God has created.

Calvinists, of course, have used this to try to prove that God creates certain people to be unbelievers, and that their end is to be burned in hell forever. They fail to see that the judgment of God is remedial and that God will save all mankind in the end. Calvin’s problem was that he read Romans 9 without first understanding the love of God set forth in Romans 5. Only love-based justice is of God, and it is the only solution that avoids making God into an unjust tyrant.

In the next verse Jude gives another example of condemnation, based on the sovereignty of God. Almost the entire generation of Israelites were “subsequently destroyed” (Jude 5) in the wilderness. Did that mean they all went to an eternal hell? No, they merely failed to reach the goal of the Promised Land, which, in New Testament terms, is to reclaim the glorified body that was lost through Adam’s sin. In other words, it is to be a manifested son of God. The Israelites were justified by faith (Passover), but they failed to receive Pentecost at Sinai, and thus they also failed to enter the land at Tabernacles.

The same situation is found in the church today, where all true believers are justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb but not all are filled with the Spirit and even fewer have the quality of faith necessary to receive the promise of Tabernacles. Fortunately, the New Covenant itself is God’s promise to the church and, indeed, to the whole earth. When men question God’s ability to fulfill His promise, the word of the Lord rings loud and clear from Num. 14:21,

21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

Do you think God has a problem bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land? Wait until you see how He saves the whole earth! A delay does not mean failure, unless you believe that death is the final deadline for someone to be saved. Death is indeed a deadline to be an overcomer who inherits the promise in the First Resurrection, but it is not a deadline to be saved.

Hebrews 9:27 says,

27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.

This tells us that judgment comes after death. It says nothing about a deadline, unless you assume that this judgment is the final condition with no remedy or correction possible. But the verse says nothing about that. I too believe that judgment comes after death, as the verse says, but to understand the nature and duration of divine judgment, one must look elsewhere for answers.

Where but at the Great White Throne will every knee bow and every tongue swear allegiance to God and Christ (Isaiah 45:23)?

Jude, then, recognizes that many are “long beforehand marked out for this condemnation,” but this condemnation is not a permanent condition. It is aionian (Greek) or olam (Hebrew), which describe an unknown, hidden, or indefinite period of time that is best rendered “an age.”

Jude’s Use of Aidios

In Jude 6 we read the author’s second example of how people can fall from an original position of belief or perfection. The “angels who did not keep their own domain” are said to be “kept in eternal [aidios] bonds under darkness.”

This is one of two places where this unique word, aidios, was used in the New Testament. The usual word is aionian, which is the normal equivalent of the Hebrew olam, “hidden.” Paul again used aidios once in Romans 1:20,

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal [aidios] power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Paul’s point was to show that God’s “invisible attributes,” including His aidios power and divine nature, have been clearly seen by all in the world—through nature itself, if nothing else. In other words, Paul was not intending to present God’s “eternal power,” but rather His hidden attributes that have been revealed and clearly seen. The contrast is not between eternal and temporary but between hidden and visible. He shows how that which has NOT been understood can now be “clearly seen.”

Hence, also Dr. Bullinger suggests in The Companion Bible, Appendix 151, that aidios was not from the Greek word aei, as is commonly supposed, but from a (“not”) and idein (“to see”). By this understanding, he says it means “unseen or hidden.” That would be the equivalent of olam in Hebrew, whose root word is alam, “to hide.”

Yet even aei, the root of aionian, does not mean “forever” but “without fail.” In Acts 7:51 Peter says,

51 You men who are stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always [aei] resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

Peter was not saying that they resisted the Holy Spirit forever, but rather that they did so without fail. Nonetheless, regardless of the inherent Greek meaning of this root word, we must understand that the Jews were using aionian as the established equivalent of the Hebrew word olam. That is the source of the biblical meaning of aionian.

But Jude 6 uses the term aidios, which is even clearer in its meaning, especially when we see how the apostle Paul used the term in Rom. 1:20.

The bottom line is that Jude 6 was telling us that the fallen angels had been bound with unseen chains of darkness. The time itself was limited, because it was “for the judgment of the great day,” at which time they would be summoned to the Great White Throne for judgment. Jude has no further explanation.

Futility in Creation is Subject to Time

The original purpose and intent of God for creation will be fulfilled, because God is a success, not a failure. To fail (Hebrew: khawtaw) is to sin, as we see in the biblical use of the word in Judges 20:16,

16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [khawtaw].

Genesis 18:20 again uses khawtaw, saying,

20 And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin [khawtaw] is exceedingly grave.”

Sin means missing the mark or failing to reach one’s goal. So Paul says in Romans 3:23,

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The word picture is of an archer whose arrow falls short of the target. In this case the target or goal is “the glory of God.”

God Himself also has a target, or goal for creation, and if He should fall short of that goal, then He might be properly called a sinner. Therefore, when God gives His word, promise, vow, or oath, He is responsible to reach the intended goal, despite the obstacles and opposition. His New Covenant vow is to make us His people, to be our God, and to write His law upon our hearts (Heb. 8:10).

If He were incapable of doing this, then He should not have made such a vow. But we know that God is indeed successful, for He is fully capable of doing all that He has set out to do. We do not worship a great Sinner, as the Greeks did in worshiping their sinful gods.

The law condemns men for failing to fulfill their Old Covenant vows of obedience. Can the law also condemn God for failing to fulfill His New Covenant vow to save all men? If God were to fail, then, yes, the law would indeed condemn Him. But God cannot fail. That is why His judgments are designed to bring success in turning every man from his iniquities and to transform all men into the image of Christ. If salvation were dependent upon the Old Covenant, all would be lost. But because salvation depends upon the New Covenant, all will be saved. Man fails; God succeeds.

Hence, the chaos in creation that was brought about by Adam’s sin did not cause God to fail in His original purpose. God will win in the end. Nonetheless, there has been a delay, which has brought about the need for the creation of Time. All that is associated with this delay is subject to Time, for it is only when God’s goal is reached, and all creation has been reconciled, that Time becomes irrelevant and useless.

So Paul says in Romans 8:19-21,

19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Creation itself has a stake in the manifestation (or “revealing”) of the sons of God. The sons of God, that is, the overcomers, are the first fruits of creation (1 Cor. 15:20), just as Christ was the first fruits of the overcomers (James 1:18). First fruits always signal a greater harvest yet to come. God is not content with receiving a few first fruits and then letting the rest of the harvest burn.

We are all in training as sons of God. Those who fail to achieve the goal of entering the Promised Land in the First Resurrection will experience a delay until the general resurrection at the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:11). The delay does not mean that they will be lost. They will simply remain “dead” until they are raised in resurrection and restored to full fellowship with God.

This is the meaning of the Israelites dying in the wilderness without receiving the promise on account of their unbelief. It is not a permanent condition, for at the Great White Throne judgment some will be given immortality (“life”), while others will be brought to further judgment (John 5:28, 29).

The believers, those justified by faith through Passover, as the Israelites under Moses, will be given immortal life at the Great White Throne. Yet even the unbelievers who are judged will merely experience a longer delay to the Creation Jubilee at the end of Time. The law of Jubilee demands the cancellation of all debt (sin) at the appointed time. The law of Jubilee does not eliminate divine judgment; it only limits it through the grace and mercy of the God of Love.