June 11, 2023
Throughout the Old Testament, we find an unfolding picture of God Almighty as the divine warrior appearing from heaven to establish justice and righteousness on earth. Jude’s letter, explains Alistair Begg, reminds us that this anticipation finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus. He who came to earth, died in our place, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven will one day return as promised, judge the whole world, and save those who have believed in and received Him with open and empty hands.
Sermon Transcript: Print
I invite you to turn with me to the letter of Jude and to follow along as I read sixteen verses of this short letter. If you have trouble looking for Jude, just go to Revelation, and turn left, and you’ll find it quickly.
“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
“It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.”
Our gracious God, we earnestly desire that the Holy Spirit will take my words and speak through them, take our minds and help us to think through them, take our hearts and stir in them, and take our wills and bring them underneath the overruling power of your majesty. And we ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Well, this evening, in our evening service at six o’clock, to which I invite every one of you, we’re going to have the joy of recognizing a number of our seniors—that is, young men and women who have made it all the way through the journey of high school and who have been able to face their final examinations with sufficient success to be able to move on to the next phase of their lives.
I was thinking about this as I was preparing this week and said to myself, “I wonder what finals are really like.” Because it seems so far in the past. And then I said, “But no, actually, I take my finals every Sunday morning in front of a large group. So I do know what it’s like.” But then it got me intrigued, and so I just Googled “finals” to see what Google had to say about finals. And I came across, for example, a little piece that said, “Maybe one day, final exams will be a thing of the past. But for now, it looks as if finals are sticking around in one form or another. So just take a deep breath and start preparing.”
But then I came on a number of advertisements that go like this. I hope none of the graduating class of this evening has been susceptible to this kind of advertising technique. It reads as follows: “Save loads of time by hiring someone to take your exam for you. Our ‘Take My Exam’ service is known as the premium solution to online learning problems.” Is this… Is this true? You don’t have to put up your hand and say, “Oh, yes, I use it all the time.” But is it really possible that someone can take your final exams for you? It’s such a strange notion.
Well, you say, “Well, what about it? We’re dealing with Jude.” Yes, we are. That’s why I mentioned it. Because here in these verses, we come face-to-face with the reality of finals—finals that no one will escape, finals that everyone will take, and the finals that are there, represented in the judgment of that “great day.” That is a phrase from verse 6, which we passed over fairly quickly when we studied it, but I chose it this morning as our title for our study—namely, “That Great Day.”
So, I want us to have that in mind: the idea of a place of finality, a place of reckoning—the awareness that yesterday, the game between Manchester City and Inter Milan was finally resolved by the final whistle. The game had a terminus. It had an end. And when the whistle blew, the way it stood was the way in which the scores were then reported: victory for one, failure for another. It may not be a whistle here. I guess it’s the sound of the buzzer in basketball terms. And what Jude has been writing about is in light of the fact that his concern for those to whom he writes is framed by the finality of that “great day” when each of us will stand before God.
He’s writing, as he tells us at the very beginning—and this is by way of rehearsal—but he’s writing to “the saints.” It’s important to recognize that he’s writing to the followers of Jesus. He’s not writing to pastors. He’s writing to the people who were part and parcel of these congregations who were the recipients of his letter. And he’s urging them—urging them to contend for the faith that had been “once for all delivered” to them. He’s been alerting them to the fact that there has crept in among them false teachers. They haven’t noticed this. They’re actually there now. And the reason for his concern is because these false teachers are seeking to pervert the grace of God and to turn it to an opportunity for sensuality. Their strategy was very straightforward, and as they did so, they were denying the finality and the reality of God’s sovereign control over things. Presumably, they would be saying to people if they had opportunity for conversation, “You know, you shouldn’t worry about these old ideas. You shouldn’t think of God as being like that. You should not think in terms of finals. You should not think in terms of judgment. Don’t think in that way.”
But Jude has been teaching them that, very, very clearly, these individuals—although he doesn’t identify them by name, nor does he identify them by the content of their teaching, but rather, he chooses to identify them by drawing, if you like, Identi-Kit pictures, so that people might have in their minds an understanding of what to look out for when this occasion arises. And last time, which was a few weeks ago now, in verse 12, we recognized that these people had made great promises—promises that they couldn’t fulfill. And so he is warning his readers about the dangers of following them.
And again, as we’ve said throughout our studies, it’s important, too, that we keep in mind that what Jude is alerting his readers to is not a threat that is coming from outside, but rather, it is the threat of declension from inside. And in verse 14 and following, he then, as we’re about to see, goes on to reinforce what he has said about the condemnation that awaits these individuals—the condemnation that you see there in verse 4.
As we noted in a previous study, too, he is now, in verse 14, referring to material—extrabiblical material—with which his initial readers would be familiar. And he introduces this by reminding them of Enoch: “It was … about these [also] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied.” Now, we know Enoch. If we know our Bibles at all, we know him, because he appears in the genealogy in Genesis 5. We also know him as the one who “walked with God” and was “taken up” by God “so that he [might] not see death.” The writer to the Hebrews chronicles that for us in 11:5. And Enoch wrote his own letter, 1 Enoch. And in that letter, he prophesied of the judgment that will come on that great day.
Now, what Jude is doing is he is simply referring to the way in which what Enoch said—which was extrabiblical, which was not inspired as in the Scriptures—but what Enoch said actually reinforced everything that you can find in the Bible itself about these things. And he is writing not theoretically but with “certain people” in mind. And I won’t take you back through it, but if you just look, he again and again is referring to “certain people,” to “these people,” “these people.” He goes all the way through doing that. And what he’s saying is that the prophecy of Enoch had immediate application to these folks, these infiltrators, who had “crept in.”
Now, I want to go down to verse 16 and come back up and pick it up in a moment or two. But he then identifies them similarly to what he did back in verse 13. And we just note the feature of these characters.
First of all, “These are grumblers.” “These are grumblers.” Now, we ought not to think that is somebody moaning because their coffee was cold or something like that. There’s enough of that, I know, but it’s something far more significant. The reference, of course, is to the experience of the people who were brought out of Egypt, remember, but then they sinned as they “thirsted … for water, and [they] grumbled against Moses and [they] said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” And again, in Numbers, you find this same emphasis. If you’re following along, if you take a note, Numbers 14:26:
And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell except Caleb … and Joshua.’”
So, in order that we might be clear: they were complaining to God. They were complaining about what God had done. And as a result of rebelling against him, they forfeited entry into the promised land. And so Jude is saying, “Be very, very careful that you don’t follow these people, these wandering stars. Because in the same way as happened before to the grumblers all those years ago, those who face their finals in this mentality will not enter into the promised land. Beware.”
Secondly, they’re “malcontents.” “Malcontents.” They’re unhappy with their given place. And you’ll notice that it’s the place that they have actually chosen for themselves. It’s not that they were put somewhere that they didn’t want to be. Notice the phrase “following their own [evil] sinful desires.” So by their own evil desires, they have rebelled against God. They’ve said, “We’re not going to do it God’s way. We’re going to do it our own way.” And now they discover the consequences of their unreasoning, instinctive, degrading behavior—in verse 10: “Unreasoning animals,” they “understand instinctively. Woe to them!”
Now, loved ones, this is difficult stuff, isn’t it? I mean, let’s not be casual about this in any way. If your mind is running at all, you probably find yourself saying, “Well, this reminds me of Romans chapter 1—that they turned their backs on God. They said, ‘We don’t want to do it your way. We’ll do it our way. We don’t care about your views on marriage or sexuality. We’ll please ourselves.’” And they’re “malcontents.” They’re unhappy people. They’re angry people. Beware!
Thirdly, they’re “loud-mouthed boasters.” They have all kinds of big stories, big words—big words about themselves, little words about God—saying, essentially, to those around them, “You know, we are the mature people. We are the free people. We feel sorry for you, you slavish people, you literal-minded people, paying attention to the Bible, listening to God in that way. Why don’t you get out of that group? Why don’t you come and join us? Here’s the way to maturity. Here’s the way to freedom. Here’s the way to joy. You cast all that aside. Don’t be restrained by these things.” “Loud-mouthed boasters.”
And “showing favoritism,” you will notice, in order “to gain advantage.” “You’re a very attractive group,” they would say, “and we have a very attractive program for you as well. Our program, unlike what you’ve been brought up with, makes few demands and holds huge and rich promises.” Few demands and instantaneous reality. You don’t have to look very far to find that story within the framework of the professing church in our day: “Don’t listen to those things that the Bible says. Listen to us. We have dreams. We’re in touch with God. We know him in a mature way, in a real way.” Do you realize how new believers are so easily susceptible to such a story? And, sadly, some who’ve been believers for a long time, who, for whatever reason, find themselves attracted to these things. And Jude says, “I’m giving you a picture of what these people are like so that you do not swallow what they have to say.”
Now, we’ll leave that there, but let me give you Phillips’s paraphrase of what we have just considered. This is how Phillips paraphrases it: “These are the men who complain and curse their fate while trying all the time to mould life according to their own [godless] desires. … These are the men who split communities, for they are led by human emotions and never by the Spirit of God.” It’s very, very important here that we understand the nature of what he’s addressing. This is not just another perspective on things. This is a flat-out denial of Jesus Christ as Master, Lord, and King. It is a complete reversal of that which has been delivered from the very beginning to the people of God.
Now, I found myself this week saying, “Oh, I wish I could get to the positive side of Jude faster than this.” And perhaps you’re feeling the same way. I recognize that. There is great danger to be distracted in this material. I recognize it in myself. I spent a lot of time chasing down rabbit holes that I should just have left alone, because it was no benefit to me in understanding or in preaching. And so I stood back from it and I said, “Well, the main things are the plain things; the plain things are the main things. Let’s just say three things that we can be absolutely confident of in this.” And here they are.
Number one: the Lord comes. You don’t have to make that up. It’s right there: “Behold, the Lord comes.” He prophesies he will come “with ten thousands of his holy ones.” This is not a unique statement. You’ll find it in Deuteronomy, when Moses blesses the people of Israel, and he uses the very same phraseology: “The Lord came from Zion with thousands upon ten thousands of his saints.” When we studied Daniel, if you can remember that far back, you remember that great scene where the Ancient of Days emerges and with him “ten thousand times ten thousand [standing] before him.” And so, as you go through the Old Testament Scriptures, you realize that there is this unfolding picture of God Almighty as the divine warrior appearing from heaven to establish justice and righteousness on the earth. That is the anticipation—which finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus, because Jesus is coming back, just as he promised.
This is not conjecture. This is fact. Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” Matthew 24:30: “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Now, you think about this. Here’s Enoch all that time ago, before the flood, and he writes this. And somehow or another, Jude decides to pick it up and reinforce what is being said with it, and pointing always forward, because we’ve said always that the Bible is a book about Jesus. The way to understand the Bible is to keep our eyes on Jesus. And so we may say with confidence that the day of the Lord will actually be the end of history. The day of the Lord will be the end of history. Because Christ will appear on earth—on earth—to establish and to display his eternal victory, manifested in salvation for all those who have faith in him and revealed in the destruction of those who have persisted in rebellion. “I am warning you,” says Jude, “in light of your finals.”
Now, we’ve said that Jude, I think, follows on from 2 Peter chronologically. If it does, then you realize that he writes Jude in some awareness of what Peter himself had said. And in Peter, in his third chapter, he says, you know,
You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, [everything’s just been going on as usual].”
Peter says, “You should know that that will be the case.” Jude says, “I want to remind you of this so that you don’t go wrong.”
I think this is a fading note in Christian preaching at the moment—the return of Jesus Christ. I think it may well be a fading note in my own preaching if I’m not careful: that the Bible beats, if you like, not simply with the advent of Christ or with the atonement that he has effected or with the ascension that he has experienced but with the promise of his return, and a return that brings a final day, that is the day of verse 6, that “great day” of judgment for whom these things are prepared—the designation that has been for these people. It’s staggering stuff.
But I wonder: Have you noticed that, if you like, in the absence of apocalyptic material on the part of the Christian pulpit, we are dying under the weight of apocalyptic stories in our news every single day? The apocalypse that is now before us: Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of Great Britain, said that we have two years to deal with AI before it threatens the human race entirely. The fellow who is the sort of Dr. Frankenstein of AI—his name is Geoffrey Hinton—he speaks of these things: “These things could get more intelligent than us and could decide to take over.” Therefore, “we need to worry now about how [to] prevent that happening.” Well, at least that’s put climate change in its place, hasn’t it? ’Cause now we’ve got another whole program to worry about. Because climate change keeps moving. Every time you get the report: “No, it was fifty years.” “No, it’s thirty years.” “No, it was 2019.” “No, it’s 2017.” It’s very, very difficult to figure out just what date to put in your diary when we’re all going to burn up or when the monsters are going to come and take us over. It’s those same people, who want to threaten me with this, would say, “Alistair, you can’t possibly be sincere in suggesting that Jesus of Nazareth is coming back in power and in glory.” Yes. Yes. Jesus is coming.
Secondly, quickly, Jesus comes; Jesus judges. Jesus judges. Judges who? Judges all, you will notice in the verse: four times “all,” four times “ungodly.” There are no exceptions, and there are no excuses, for we are by nature ungodly. That’s what the Bible says. “All we like sheep have gone astray”—Isaiah 53. And “each of us has turned to our own way.” It’s not simply that we’re all going in the same direction, lost. We are all going in the same direction, lost, but each of us has got our own angle on it. So, “I’m lost up a drug path.” “I’m lost up a self-righteousness path.” It doesn’t matter what path we’re up. We’re all up our own path, which runs contrary to the perfect path of freedom which God provides for us in Jesus. And Jesus will judge.
Now, the fact of the matter is, judgment is immediately refuted in the minds of people—maybe in your mind this morning. I don’t know. Because all divine judgment sounds, actually, strange. It actually sounds unjust until we see God as he is and we see ourselves as we are. Until we see God as he is. He’s coming on the clouds. He’s the only holy God. If he is perfection in his holiness, it’s hard for us to conceive of how good is the goodness of God and at the same time to face up to how messed up and spoiled and evil I am by nature. Both of these positions, pole positions, are hard to swallow.
That’s why we need our Bibles. There’s not the slightest possibility—not the slightest possibility—that God can ever accommodate the evil that he opposes. It’s not possible. He would have to be something other than he is to be able to say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. There’s no final exam. Don’t worry about it. You’ll all be okay.” That’s what people want us to say. That’s what some of us want the Bible to say. Because it cuts us free, so we think. Actually, it brings us into bondage.
When Paul preaches to the intelligent folks in the Areopagus in Athens, he finally gets to the very same place, doesn’t he? He’s begun very straightforwardly: “I can see you are a religious group. You’ve got all these different idols and so on, and you’ve even got one to ‘the unknown god.’ And what you don’t know I want to proclaim to you.” And then he explains that God has made the world, that God has sent his Son, that God is the one who has the purpose and plan for all humanity. And then he says, “And he has set a day.” He has set a day. It’s fixed. It will be fair. It’s final. He has set a day when he will do what? When he will judge the world. On what basis? On the basis of his perfect holiness and the fact that we could never approximate to it. Therefore, are we stuck?
Jesus comes. Jesus judges. Jesus saves. Jesus saves. Otherwise, we would be stuck. Because, you see, the wonderful story of the Bible, if we stand back from it for a moment, we realize that God has created us for himself; that we have rebelled against him; that he has determined that we must be justifiably punished for our rebellion, but he still continues to love us; and he has sent his Son, on account of his eternal plan, to save those who believe.
Jesus comes on a rescue mission. The Jesus who comes to separate the sheep from the goats is the Jesus who stands before Jerusalem and says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, I wish I could have gathered you all to myself, but you wouldn’t come to me.” He’s “the only God” and “Savior”—verse 25, when we finally get there. He’s “the only God” and “Savior.”
Here’s Newton, in a hymn that we never sing. It begins, “Day of judgment! Day of wonders! Hark! The trumpet’s awful sound.” And then verse 3:
At his call the dead awaken,
Rise to life from earth and sea;
All the [power] of nature shaken
By his looks, prepare to flee.
What will then become of thee?
“What are you going to do with the finals?” That’s what he’s saying. “Make sure that you don’t swallow this.”
John Woodhouse, who helped us all the way through 1 Samuel, summarizes this so perfectly, actually in 1 Samuel, pointing to the way in which Jesus saves. This is what he says: “The demands of God’s Law have been met in the perfect obedience of Jesus. The penalty for sin has been paid in the sin-bearing death of Jesus. The power of death has been broken in the … resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” Sin means not simply that death is the end of life, but sin means that death brings judgment. And it is that striking note that is sounded out. “All we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”—so that the deserved punishment for my rebellion and for my alienation has been borne by another in the sinner’s place so that the sinner might be spared on that day.
What do you have to do? Well, all you have to do—frankly, all that you can do—is to accept what Jesus has done for us and to receive him with open and empty hands. Religion of self-endeavor can never address the longings of the human heart nor the needs of our rebellious souls. And because Jude loves his people so much, he’s prepared to continue to sound out the warning in light of that “great day.”
You know, if you think about it, I don’t know if you can pay for somebody to take your finals. But in one sense, in Jesus we have someone who has actually taken our finals. And this is the annoying mystery of the gospel to the self-righteous, because it goes like this: Jesus takes my F and gives me, undeservedly, his A.
[Congregation member: “Amen! That’s right! Preach!”]
Here we go. Yeah, we got to stop, sweetheart, but that’s good. I appreciate the encouragement.
Father, Lord, I pray that nobody within earshot of my voice will be so willfully rebellious towards the urgent word of entreaty and the beautiful invitation of grace so as to continue down a path that leads to destruction but rather might find themselves caught up in the embrace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died in our place. And in his name we pray. Amen.
 See Genesis 5:18–24.
 Genesis 5:22, 24 (ESV).
 Hebrews 11:5 (ESV).
 Exodus 17:3 (ESV).
 See Romans 1:21–25.
 Jude 16, 19 (Phillips).
 Deuteronomy 33:2 (paraphrased).
 Daniel 7:10 (ESV).
 2 Peter 3:2–4 (ESV).
 Geoffrey Hinton, quoted in Bobby Allyn, “‘The Godfather of AI’ Warns of AI Possibly Outperforming Humans,” NPR, May 27, 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/05/27/1178575886/-the-godfather-of-ai-warns-of-ai-possibly-outperforming-humans.
 Isaiah 53:6 (ESV).
 Isaiah 53:6 (NIV).
 Acts 17:22–23 (paraphrased).
 Acts 17:31 (paraphrased).
 Matthew 23:37 (paraphrased).
 John Newton, “Day of Judgment! Day of Wonders!” (1774).
 John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 335.
 Isiah 53:6 (paraphrased).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.