Most scholars believe that the author of this letter was the brother of James (who wrote the Book of James and was Jesus’ brother). Early church tradition dates Jude’s death around 62 AD (meaning the letter was probably written sometime before then), however there is also internal and external evidence to suggest that Jude probably wrote this toward the end of the century, somewhere between 70-80 AD.
Jude is most likely addressing Jewish believers since he makes obscure Old Testament references as well as allusions to books from the Apocrypha that would make more sense to the Jewish rather than the Gentile believers. False teachers were attacking these believers and hoping to lead them into a lifestyle of sin:
For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude makes the point to his readers that since the beginning of time those who lived a lifestyle of licentiousness (lust, excess, immorality, etc) always came under judgment. Therefore, no matter how enticing it was for them to listen to these false teachers (who might seem on the outside to have more fun), they needed to pay attention to the past. Since all sin is a vicious cycle (as it produces slavery), then what happened in history was proof that a lifestyle of sin today would eventually lead to an unhappy ending:
Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Jude then makes an interesting contrast between those who fear the Lord and those opposed to Him:
But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!:
The angel of the Lord didn’t dare bring an accusation against the devil (recognizing accusation as sin), whereas Satan disregarded the Lord and attempted to abscond Moses’ body against God’s will. The angel feared the Lord; the devil did not.
As a side note, the above verse might be an allusion to the Assumption of Moses, a Jewish apocryphal pseudepigraphical work that’s not considered by most Christians to be Holy-Spirit inspired. There are, however, other possibilities to what this passage alludes to that you can read up on by clicking here.
Anyway, my point is that there is a clear contrast between good (which leads to life) and evil (which leads to death). I know for me personally, sometimes my thoughts deceive me into thinking that sin is okay. The stronger the temptation, the stronger the lie.
It’s not that God will condemn us if we do sin (there is nothing that Jesus isn’t willing to forgive), or that we should feel guilty, ashamed or discouraged in our daily struggles. But we must recognize that both a lifestyle of continual sin and short-term, circumstantial sin is not from God and is not a good idea in any circumstance. It’s what Jesus came to help us escape from, once and for all:
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
1 Peter 3:18
The false teachers who were coming against the original reader were teaching otherwise, and it seemed like their ideas were infiltrating the Christians’ thoughts since Jude had to write this letter to them. They were to hate sin and remain separate from these teachers, for by doing so they would continue to have life:
And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.
…“In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
As long as we today set our minds to hate sin and desire to overcome, the Holy Spirit will then renew our minds, which is the only possible way to lose our desire for sin and instead follow God:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is why followers of Jesus are called victors and conquerors, because Jesus gives us the ability to overcome all sin:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
…for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
1 John 5:4
And if there is ever any confusion over what will bring life or death in a particular moment or decision, simply asking God will bring clarity:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth…
Again, the point of this blog entry isn’t to push people to be “better” or “stop sinning,” but rather to point out that temptation and sin is never from God, and that all sin, in the end, will lead to death:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
And finally, because I love happy endings, the good news is that sin will eventually be done away with forever so that we never have to endure the struggle again!
…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.