“But, Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit.” (Jude 17, 18, 19)
Jude, having described the character, behavior and speech of the seducing apostates in the church, now shows that not only the ancient prophet Enoch, but the apostles, who addressed their age, had foretold and forewarned of these scoffers and sons of Belial. Therefore, we must not be surprised, think it strange, be offended or have our faith shaken because apostates arise in the Christian church. Rather, our faith should be strengthened by the fulfilment of the prophetic Word. Also it should comfort us to know that in the confusion of error, ridicule, persecution and increase of false teachers, Christ will preserve and prosper His church.
Also when we observe the connection with the previous verse we cannot escape the implication of the words that the very common habit of murmuring and complaining—murmuring against God’s providence, the way He has led us, and complaining of one’s lot in life—is a mark of apostasy. Let that strike us with all its heart-searching and flesh-withering force! Remember, too, that by scoffing men refuse and dodge the abrasive sting of truth.
“But, you, Beloved…” The true believers are viewed in sharp contrast to the hypocrites identified in “these” (v. 12, 16) as over against “you, Beloved.” You are “beloved of God, called saints” (Rom. 1:7). Those so addressed are also the elect (Rom. 11:28), are brethren (I Cor. 15:58; Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5), whereas these are reprobate concerning the faith (II Tim. 3:8) and are false brethren (Gal. 2:4)! Observe how the Spirit of God many times in Scripture addresses His people as “Beloved,” while these “mockers in the last time” are denominated “hypocrites” (seven times in Matt. 23).
“Remember.” Jude exhorts his hearers and readers to remember not the letters and doctrines of the apostles, generally, but their prophecies warning of the false teachers that were shortly to appear. A remembrance of these prophecies would preserve from error and delusion and would comfort in times of heresy. Read Paul’s prophecy in I Tim. 4:1, in II Tim. 3 and Peter’s in his second epistle, chapter two.
“…the words which were spoken before…” With these prophecies before us we see them fulfilled right before our eyes in star after star falling from heaven, in pseudo-teachers turning from the faith, in the love of many becoming cold, error arrogantly boasting against the truth. All this the Lord foreordained in His secret counsel (Eph. 1:11) and foretold through His apostolic prophets. See these things come to pass which “were spoken before” and let that all the more establish you in the truth of Scripture.
“…of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20), that is, upon the more sure word of the prophecy of Scripture, which holy men of God spoke as they were moved (inspired) by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:19-21). That underlying foundation is verbally, plenarily inspired inerrant Scripture. We must always dig down through the rubble of man’s word and human tradition “to the Law and to the testimony,” to “this Word” of holy and divine Scripture (Isa. 8:20). There alone in self-authenticated Scripture is our only infallible rule of faith and conduct.
V.18, “how that they told you,” not in mere oral tradition, but in God-breathed writings. They told you of the approach, trend and spread of apostasy. False prophets furtively crept into the church. For a time they concealed themselves under the deep cover of Christian profession of all the articles of the faith. But soon they throw off all fear of detection. Their strength of numbers made underground cells among them unnecessary. No longer do they cover their tracks, but openly, in superlative arrogance, reveal their heresies, libertinism, feminism, effeminacy, Jezebelism and miscegenationism.
“…there should be mockers in the last time…” John had told them, “Little children, it is the last time” (I John 2:18). The last time, in which we live, is bounded by the Victory of the Incarnation at its beginning and the Victory of the Second Coming of the Lord at its end. In the last times Peter says, “there shall be scoffers,” the same word in Jude translated mockers. The word (appearing only these two times in Scripture) is empaiktai, and in its verb form means “to trifle with” maliciously as an evil person might do with children in order to delude and deceive them. Mockers scoff at the Christian religion as injurious and inimical to education, as a political tool to advance a party, as a civil or government expedient to keep the masses in subjection. Especially do mockers have scorn and derision for the doctrines of the last things, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the body, the final judgment, eternal punishment in hell and the blessedness of heaven. All this they represent as worn out, discarded superstitions which no person of reputation, intelligence or scientific acumen holds. We, at the end of the last time, have lived to see a demonic host of mockers arise as predicted. Hence the Lord’s coming has to be near. These scoffers worm their material into some of the Christian book stores in which they crack jokes on the Lord’s head making fun of God. The modern movie, TV and textbook industries with their blasphemous productions are full of this sort of thing, and no wonder; there is no fear of God before their eyes.
“…who should walk after (that is, ‘live as slaves to’) their own ungodly lusts.” They live to enjoy the lust of the eye and the lusts of the flesh. They live in the constant practice of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Their outward pretense of good is to conceal a lust while secretly enjoying it. Their main business is to satisfy their lusts, having eyes full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin.
V. 19, “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, not having the Spirit,” or, “these are the ones making divisions (from the faith of the Church and unto themselves and their factions), natural ones, not having spirit.” Some listen to these mockers and, agreeing with them, center themselves in a schismatical following in the congregation. In this way the Christian unity of the church’s membership is split by heresy, schism and apostasy (I Cor. 11:19, margin). The schismatics no longer contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, having gone along with the defection of the false teachers. The saints cannot endure the apostasy of schismatics. The latter usually place the blame for their separations (schisms) on those who cannot tolerate their apostasy. But verse 19 shows where blame and guilt lie. Think of Cain, the first schismatic, heretic and apostate; for “he went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:19). Keep in mind, too, that apostasy begins in forsaking the assemblies of the churches (Heb. 10:23-25). The apostates and their apostasy give occasion to the occurrence of the many divisions among the churches and the rise of different denominations, for true believers are, because of this, forced to form new churches and denominations in order to preserve the truth of God’s covenant in the line of past, present and future generations. Think of Noah and his family who had to withdraw from the wicked, violent, infidel world and seek preservation in the ark. Lot similarly with his own family had to get out of Sodom. Elijah entirely alone stood on the side of Jehovah over against the Baal worshipers. But these wicked apostates were guilty of: (1) casting out the saints, (2) damnable heresies, and (3) idolatry.
Next, according to the King James Version, these men are sensual. The meaning is not that they are lascivious (which they are, of course), but that they live entirely in the realm of the natural. Paul, therefore, speaks of “the natural man” (same word, I Cor. 2:14) who neither receives the things of the Spirit of God, nor knows them, but regards them as foolishness (I Cor. 1:18, 23). James 3:15 says they are worldly, natural, demonic. The opposite of this word “natural” is “spiritual” which latter term applies only to believers, the saints.
The third factor describing these divisive, natural men is, “not having spirit,” that is, not having “spirit” in the sense of John 3:6, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” God’s holy Spirit alone produces a spiritual birth, a new life that is spirit, the opposite of flesh. That new life is produced by the Spirit’s work of regeneration and is called spirit. (Cp. Jn. 4:24, Rom. 7:6). An apostate, then, is not a regenerated person. The unregenerate, born of the flesh, are no more than flesh. They cannot be said to be spirit (spirit referring to the whole man from the point of view of regeneration).
It is not schism (or “separation” in the bad sense) to abandon the false church. Ministers abandon their duty when they do not exhort their flocks to their duty to leave the false church. It is exhausting, laborious work for faithful pastors to “take heed to their ministry,” so that by preaching, teaching, logical argumentation, convincing and warning their sheep they mold a strong, rugged people obedient to the gospel; and if it becomes necessary to withdraw from the false church, they may then form separate congregations to join themselves anew to the true church where the worship and service of God may be carried on in peace.