Jude 1 – 25
I am confident, beloved brethren, that we can be assured that the end of the present dispensation will not be inferior, in a spiritual sense, to the beginning. It is evident that the beginning and the end of what is of God always correspond. He Himself is said to be the “beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6), a thought that could not, of course, allow for any deterioration. The Lord Jesus says, of Himself, “I am ... the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13) and He is “the same yesterday, and today, and to the ages to come” (Hebrews 13:8). The work of God always secures a blessed end. The work of the Spirit of God here in the saints will have a magnificent end spiritually; though the day be dark publicly, yet the closing period is going to be wonderful according to God.
We see that in Jacob, who I believe is a figure of the work of the Spirit. He stands as representative of the work of the Spirit of God, and it says of him, “By faith Jacob when dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped” (Hebrews 11:21). Can we conceive a more wonderful setting to the life of Jacob, for when he was dying he was intelligent as to the man that should be first. He acted wittingly; he put the second man, Ephraim, before Manasseh deliberately. One of the great ends of the work of the Spirit in our hearts is to secure that the second Man who is out of heaven should be first. It says, “He takes away the first that he may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9). That is God’s way, and Jacob reached it. Then it says that he worshipped. Think of a man such as Jacob had been, when dying, worshipping.I believe that the closing period of the assembly’s history is to be marked increasingly by worship, and I had that in my heart to speak about.
How beautifully the Lord Jesus illustrates what we have been saying. The beginning of His pathway here was marked by the acclamation of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men” (Luke 2:14). Then, in the closing scene ere He vanished out of their sight, it is said that they worshipped Him. His coming in was marked by the acclamation of the heavenly host; His going out was marked by the worship of His own. So that seems to me to be in keeping with what God does. How frequently we find in the precious Scriptures that at the end of a section or a book we are brought to a doxology. Think of the books of the Psalms – each one of them closes with worship. Whatever may have been the experiences, many inexpressibly painful, each closes with a doxology in which, on one occasion at least, the psalmist calls on all the people of God to say Amen: “Let all the people say, Amen!” (Psalm 106:48). The Spirit of God is active to bring us consciously into that Amen. Even the closing scene of Nebuchadnezzar’s life is like that. What a man he had been, but how wondrous the end; he disappears from view as a worshipper. He says, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of the heavens, all whose works are truth, and his paths judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37). Thus he disappears; that is his end. I cannot refer to many doxologies in detail; for there are many of them, but as taken account of intelligently they give substance to our worship; they increase the volume of worship from the hearts of the saints. The great book that illustrates this is Romans. The apostle touches theme after theme, evidently with one thing in his heart – to bring before the saints in Rome that which will make them worshippers.
Paul speaks of the Creator, so infinitely great, and there is a doxology which is not simply a statement of what is true, but is the worship of Paul’s own heart. He says, “Who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 1:25). Let us be in that Amen always; let our hearts never be silent as to the blessedness and greatness of God, the Creator. Then, when He speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ personally, he says, “come of David’s seed according to flesh” (Romans 1:3), and there rises in the apostle’s soul a vision of the inexpressible greatness of Christ, as to who He is, and he says later, “who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 9:5). What a theme to awaken the worship of our hearts: “Jesus Christ ... come of David’s seed according to flesh” – not only that He was, but that He is over all, God. Though in glorious manhood, it says that He is over all, that is, over the whole universe, not confined in any way to one section, but over all; that blessed One whom we know in manhood is “over all, God blessed for ever. Amen”. We are to have part in that Amen; God is helping the saints to say it. Then he thinks of the wisdom of God in His ways and he says, “O depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable his judgments, and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? or who has first given to him, and it shall be rendered to him? For of him, and through him, and for him are all things: to him be the glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:33 – 36). Finally there appears before the apostle’s heart a glimpse of the assembly, the mystery up to which he is leading. He is preparing the Roman saints for God for His service, and, as nearing his end, he says, “Now to him that is able to establish you, according to my glad tidings and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, as to which silence has been kept in the times of the ages, but which has now been made manifest, and by prophetic scriptures, according to commandment of the eternal God, made known for obedience of faith to all the nations – the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 16:25 – 27). Thus he closes his epistle, and others, with a doxology – so in keeping with the way of God.
I want to touch a little now on this profoundly encouraging epistle of Jude. It was specially written for our day. The greater part of the epistle presents an awful picture, yea, more than a picture, a reality plainly evident before the eyes of anyone who can see according to God. He fain would have spoken of Christ personally, or as he said, written of “our common salvation”, but conditions were already developing that caused him to write otherwise. He saw men already creeping unawares into that which bore the name of Christ, ungodly men who deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. Alas! we are surrounded by these ungodly men in christendom, men who in no way express anything of God. He speaks of them as dreamers who defile the flesh, men whose minds are entirely out of control, who bring in the imaginations of their unclean minds, thus defiling everything they touch. He says, “They have gone in the way of Cain”, he saw the way of Cain reappearing. We need to remember that evil never dies out of itself; if it disappears, it disappears as judged, by God or by the saints, but it never dies out of itself. The way of Cain goes right back to the beginning, but Jude says, ‘There it is – the refusal of the sacrificial work of Christ as the basis of approach to God’. Is it not widespread at this moment? He says, too, that they have “given themselves up to the error of Balaam”: they are speaking of what is of God, but for reward, and they have “perished in the gainsaying of Core”. He saw already the rebellious uprising against Christ as the great Priest. The usurpation of the place of Christ in the church had already begun; Jude saw it and felt it. He speaks of them as “wandering stars”, men who are no longer – if ever they were – under the control of Christ; they have broken away even from outward control.
Then he also refers to Sodom and Gomorrha. He saw the features of Sodom reappearing, the spiritual Sodom as well as the carnal one – both evident even in Jude’s day. The Scripture speaks of a place that is “spiritually Sodom” (Revelation 11:8). Think of the awful spiritual corruption that has developed! Then he tells us something that is terribly true of men and women today, that even in that which they know naturally, they corrupt themselves. He saw that beginning in his day. How blatant it is in the world around us – in the religious world, in christendom today! Scripture says that nature teaches the distinction in appearance between a man and a woman: in christendom that is being given up. Nature teaches that it is a glory to a woman to have long hair, but in what nature teaches they corrupt themselves. Nature teaches what is true beauty in a woman, but how dreadful is the condition that has developed in the abandonment of what even nature teaches – and that in christendom!
I must not refer more to that side, but how dark it is! It is the setting in which Jude closes his epistle, the darkness of Egypt coming into the professing church. But then he says, “But ye, beloved”. Thank God for the difference, in contrast to what he has been presenting. Let every one of us, the dear young brothers and sisters and children, stand by that “But”. Never allow the distance between the world – be it the religious world or the social world – and what is proper to the believer to be reduced by a hair’s breadth.“But ye, beloved”. Jude saw living affections operating in the hearts of the saints; what a blessed, holy thing, recovered and maintained in the face of the darkness and the hatred that abounds! “But ye, beloved, building yourselves up”. How blessed is the development of what is mutual; the self-building up of the body in love, what is provided by each member contributing a living part. Think of a local gathering, say of fifty saints, brothers and sisters, old and young, every one contributing a living part! Jude says, ‘That is still here’. “Building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” – holy desires operating in the heart and expressed in prayer – “keep yourselves in the love of God”.
Then, finally, he begins a note of worship; he closes his solemn epistle with worship. The dark scene that he has portrayed has not removed from his heart what God is maintaining to the end: that which is precious to Him and responsive to Him; that indeed, which considers for Him and His desires. Think of God having desires! Think of our holy privilege in responding to them! As to Himself, as Paul says, God is not “served by men’s hands as needing something” (Acts 17:25). There is a sense, of course, in which He is wholly sufficient in Himself; it must be so, and yet He has desires. What does He desire? “Thou shalt do homage to the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). He desires worship, and He desires worshippers. You cannot separate the worshippers from the worship according to God. That is what is attempted, alas! Much is made of formal worship in christendom, the music, the mere words, the vestments – all these things have a great place as part of the worship that men have established. But what God is seeking, and what He would measure, is not the worship but the worshippers. Let us put His standard alongside the worshippers, and what have we?
Jude in closing his epistle with a doxology says, “But to him that is able to keep you without stumbling”, who is able to see the saints through, whatever may be without. He is able to do it, Jude says, and he worships Him as the One who is able to do it “and to set you with exultation blameless before his glory”. Jude has in his heart the inheritance that God has in the saints, that He is going to present them to Himself before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Then he says, “To the only God”. Whatever may be the position outside, this is to be maintained – “to the only God”. There is not an idol in the hearts of the saints in this closing doxology. That is what Jude has in mind, and then he gives expression to one of the most wonderful utterances from a human heart in Scripture. He says, “To him ... be glory, majesty, might, and authority, from before the whole age, and now, and to all the ages. Amen”. Think of such thoughts, beloved. Jude has looked at the awful features of that which bore the name of Christ, but this is what is in his heart.
He says, “To him ... be glory ... from before the whole age”. You might ask Jude what he knew of what was “before the whole age”. How did he come to have an apprehension of God in that relation, that he could worship Him in regard to it? He says, “To him ... be glory;” that is, there is present in Jude’s soul a sense of worship to God in relation to what was from “before the whole age”. Think of the vastness of such a thought in his heart! It refers to his apprehension of God as beyond the period of time. He thought of God in that way, as the One that inhabited eternity, before time existed! The sense of the greatness of God thus in the soul of Jude leads him to worship the “eternal God”. How little we know or are able to say as to that, but we know that unapproachable light was there, that love was there, and glory was there, before the world was. As Jude thought thus of God in all His inscrutable greatness, he says, “To him ... be glory ... from before the whole age”.
Then I am sure that Jude had attended to the words of the apostles. He speaks of “the words spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”. He adhered to them, and his soul was filled with worship in relation to what was purposed from “before the whole age;” the eternal thoughts and purpose of God before time, before the world, in relation to us. That also would fill his soul. One cannot speak much of it, but Peter touches one theme. He says, “knowing that ye have been redeemed, not by corruptible things, as silver or gold, ... but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ, foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18 – 20). Peter lays hold of that, and I have no doubt Jude had it in his heart, that the One through whom we are redeemed, and the means of our redemption, was in the mind of God as foreknown before the foundation of the world. The natural mind would inquire why God should permit a condition of things that would need redemption, but it is not permissible for the thing formed to question what is done by the One who formed it; for the clay to question the Potter. It says of the One who is the Redeemer that He was “foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world”. I am sure Jude would have that in his heart when he says, “To him ... be glory ... from before the whole age”.
The apostle Paul speaks of “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time” (Titus 1:2). He has in his soul the maintenance of life according to the promise of God before time was. How wonderful that is! The question of good and evil, which belongs to time, appears so great to us that even before sin came in, Eve speaks of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being in the midst of the garden, whereas the Spirit of God says, “the tree of life, in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). It was evidently near, but it does not actually say that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the midst, but it does say that the tree of life was in the midst. Thus the central thought of God was that there would be one blessed Man, for trees in Scripture refer to men, who would support the character of life that was according to the eternal thoughts of God. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, says, “According as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love” (chapter 1: 4) – a thing that is wonderful to our hearts – He chose us before time was to be before Him as taken into favour in the Beloved, marking us out beforehand for sonship according to the good pleasure of His will. Jude would have all that in mind, as heeding the words of the apostles, and as he looked over that vast range before the ages of time, he says, “To him ... through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory”. The great and blessed Person who secures worship from the heart of men is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then he says, “And now”. What a vista would open up before Jude’s soul as he thinks of “now”, what there is now that would provide substance to the worship of Jude’s soul. What is there now? What we are in the light of now, is the revelation of God. Could there be anything more blessed and glorious with which to fill our hearts? “No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). That is part of what is now, and the blessedness of it was in Jude’s heart as he uttered this doxology. How much is in the “now!” The apostle John says, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding that we should know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). What is also “now” is this, the Spirit of God has come. He is here in the believer, and in the assembly. “Do ye not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). “Do ye not know that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is here also as the Comforter to attend to the interests of Christ, to form us according to that purpose before time, and to fit us for Christ’s day. All this is part of the “now”.And the assembly of God is here; the true tabernacle has been pitched, and the service of God is going on. Jude has this in his heart, and more, when he says, “To him ... be glory ... now”. What a wondrous day we are in, beloved! – the closing day. Some sense of the greatness of God in relation to what was before time has come into the hearts of the saints, and some sense of the wonder of the “now” is with us, so that we worship.
Then Jude looks forward, and he says, “And to all the ages”. He looks right into eternity, and sees such a scene that he worships. He looks into the coming age, the “administration of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10), and he sees everything in heaven under the headship of Christ, angels and authorities and powers, the assembly, every family in heaven – all under the influence, direction and impulse of Christ. He also sees everything on earth headed up in Christ and – and how our hearts long for it – not a movement on earth in the coming age but is effected by Christ. He looks further; as Peter says, “We wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). By the Spirit Jude looks into eternity, the ages of ages, and what does he see? New heavens, with families in them, all in the blessed consciousness, in various degrees, of sonship, being named of the Father, all enjoying what is heavenly, and held there in the power of love to all eternity. Think of being brought to the altitude of the divine thought, that we should be heavenly! “Such as the heavenly one, such also the heavenly ones” (1 Corinthians 15:48). Think of having a place in what is heavenly and, indeed, in the new heavens, and never a possibility of falling or of leaving them. Then also a new earth, inhabited. Scripture speaks of the “habitable part of his earth” (Proverbs 8:31). How little, alas! there is that is habitable today. Think of the whole earth – what is there habitable according to God? But Jude had before his mind a new earth, every part of which would be habitable, and every part conscious that there are exalted spheres above them, yet eternally content to be where God has put them. Never will the word be heard, “I will ascend” (Isaiah 14:13); never will the heavenly fall; never will the earthly attempt to mount up, but all, knowing God, will be eternally satisfied to be where He has set them.
The Scripture says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God. And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress shall exist any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3, 4). As Jude looks into the ages of ages, his soul is filled with worship, and he utters at the close of this solemn and deeply affecting epistle this wondrous doxology: “To him ... through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory”. One loves to think of how we shall ever hold all as having come by Jesus Christ, the great and glorious instrument for the securing of the thoughts of God. “To us there is ... one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). How He will stand out thus for ever! Thus Jude closes, “But to him ... the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory” – a vista that bows our hearts in worship; though little indeed can we view the immensity of it! – “... from before the whole age, and now” – thank God for the “now” – “and to all the ages”. Then he says, “Amen”. The psalmist would speak to us there; he would say, “Let all the people say, Amen!” Let every heart come into this. Dear brethren, the end is at hand, and the only thing that counts now is to come into this “Amen”, to come into this response to God, known in this wondrous way, even in the presence of the day of apostasy and darkness that is spreading over christendom. The one thing that really matters is that our hearts should be secured for this “Amen”, to have part in this blessed closing doxology. May the Lord deepen it. I am sure He has it, but may it increase and deepen in volume and intensity in all our souls. One loves to think of the extent of the ultimate doxology that will be heard. John says that he heard it. “And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages” (Revelation 5:13). One is conscious of the intense feebleness of one’s own part in these great things, but I am assured that they are being secured, and the great thing for us all is to set our hearts more earnestly and definitely to have a part in them to the end.
Glasgow, May 1936