You are on page 1of 5

Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

Chapter Eight A Misused Text: Jude 4
If I were you, I’d be tired by this point. I don’t blame you. A recommendation would be that this is a great place in which to place your bookmark and pick up tomorrow, or next week (or perhaps never again!). You’ve done an absolutely marvelous job of keeping up if you have made it this far. If so, it is also absolutely clear that you have the makings of a very serious Bible student. Perhaps you are even “predestined” to become such a person! I commend you for your attention thus far. The final text to observe very briefly is Jude 4. I am setting it off from the other texts for a specific reason. Undoubtedly some of my Reformed friends would be upset with me if I ended my explanation of double-predestination without mentioning this verse. “You’re no Calvinist if you leave out this verse, Rob!!” That’s what I can hear some of them saying. That’s okay. I’m still love you! I must say, however, that after studying the verse at length, I am personally convinced that it remains only a proof text. I do not see any justifiable grounds for understanding this text as having anything to do with predestination. I humbly disagree with my Reformed friends and theologians. Let me explain. I could begin by arguing that this text draws heavily from the OT and reflects a high degree of saturation with Jewish thought. The warning begins in verse 3 where Jude gives the mandate, “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The reason for contending earnestly is explained in verse 4. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (KJV). What follows in verses 5-18 is a historical description of the condemnation to which the false teachers of Jude’s day were subject. In short, the condemnation is being turned over to sinfulness, fleshliness, and wickedness so that along the way, he is only building up for himself wrath on the day of judgment when God condemns them to hell. I could further argue from the reading of the KJV that these false teachers had this coming to them all along. They were ungodly persons who crept in unnoticed into the church, slipping into the side door, secretly and subtly perverting the gospel of God’s

Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

grace. Jude’s point in this description is that their sinfulness is a present day reflection that they are persons who have already had an eternal penalty pronounced upon them, and this verdict was evidently predetermined “long beforehand,” as the KJV reads. One scholar commented on this condemnation as “an exceedingly painful expression…to describe the divine decision regarding the non-elect.”1 While these arguments are true, there is one grammatical factor that plays into a correct interpretation of this verse. While many translations have given us the words “marked out” or some other similar meaning, the actual Greek is translated “written about.”2 This changes everything for me. You see, what Jude is talking about here is the fact that these false teacher’s apostasy and condemnation was something predicted long ago as being an evil that would enter among God’s people. They were also prophesied as being condemned men. My friend John MacArthur stated it best when he preached, “Jude says that that the condemnation of apostates had been written down by God long ago.”3 The condemnation of the false teachers or apostates was not “long beforehand marked out” in the sense that they were predestined to be condemned before the foundation of the world, as some Reformed theologians have traditionally understood it. 4 Rather, the Scriptures warned before hand of these kinds of teachers, and Jude is simply reminding his readers of these prophecies so that they will not be so surprised by the false teaching.5
1

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. “Biblical Theism: Divine Decrees.” Bibliotheca Sacra V96 #383 (July 1939), p. 268.

2

The Greek word is progegrammenoi which means “to write beforehand.” This Greek word occurs only four times, one of those being here in Jude 4. Yet in the three other occurrences, the Greek word is never translated “ordained” as the KJV translators rendered it. As a historical note, the KJV was, of course, one of the English translations of the Scriptures used by the English Reformers and Puritans, thereby influencing the common interpretation of this verse as supporting double-predestination.
3

John MacArthur, “Beware the Pretenders: Description of Apostates, Part 1 – Jude 3-4.” Audio Tape GC2123 (Panorama City, CA: Grace To You).
4

As I differed with two Puritans on 1 Peter 2:8, I differ with most of them when it comes to Jude 4, including Jerome Zanchius, the champion of the position. I’ve yet to read a Puritan or Reformed theologian who believed anything else regarding this passage. Among them are the two giants Francis Turretin (The Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Volumes [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1997], 1:333, 380, 381, 386, 388; 2:704; 3:601) and Thomas Manton (The Epistle of Jude [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989 Reprint], p. 125). Presbyterian theology seems to largely hold this interpretation, Robert L. Dabney being a lighthouse in that system of thought (Systematic Theology [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1985 reprint], pp. 239 ff.) Among the Baptists are the old stalwart John Gill (Body of Divinity [Paris, AK: Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 Reprint], pp. 194, 197) and the Southern Baptist pioneer James P. Boyce (Abstract of Systematic Theology [Hanford, CA: den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1987 Reprint], p. 359).
5

Cf. S. D. F. Salmond, “Jude” in The Pulpit Commentary Vol. 22 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1962), p. 5. “The writer does not specify what particular prophecies are in view…But the force of the

Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

Where was it written by God long ago? In the Scriptures, of course. Jude himself refers to one such example in verses 14-16 of his epistle – Enoch . He writes, “Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, ‘Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him!’ These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain” (NET). Jude goes on to offer additional evidence of this prophecy regarding false teachers and their condemnation. In verse 17 he writes, “But you, dear friends – recall the predictions foretold by the apostles our Lord Jesus Christ.” He then pieces together quotes from Paul, specifically, in his warnings to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29,30 as well as to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:1 and 4:3. He is also referring to Peter’s warning in 2 Peter 2:1-2 and 3:3. But to be specific and accurate to verse 4, even these references are not what are referred to as being “long beforehand” which carries the connotation of being ancient or old. What Jude is referring to in verse 4 is the ancient written prediction of apostates and their condemnation as found in the Old Testament. A citation of these passages will be helpful to those who want to study this deeper.6 First, Jude is referring to various prophecies of Isaiah 8:19-22 “They will say to you, ‘Seek oracles at the pits used to conjure up underworld spirits, from the magicians who chirp and mutter incantations. Should people not seek oracles from their gods, by asking the dead about the destiny of the living?’ Then you must recall the Lord's instructions and the prophetic testimony of what would happen. Certainly they say such things because their minds are spiritually darkened. They will pass through the land destitute and starving. Their hunger will make them angry, and they will curse their king and their God as they look upward. When one looks out over the land, he sees distress and darkness, gloom and anxiety, darkness and people forced from the land” (8:19-22).

phrase ‘of old,’ in its present connection, points to what is of ancient date in the stricter sense. The Old Testament prophecies, therefore, are probably those referred to, and the fact that mention is made byand-by of Enoch as one of the prophets of old, makes it likely that the predictive sections of the book which bears his name are also in the author’s mind.”
6

A comparison of the following OT prophecies with Jude 8-16 will reveal striking similarities.

Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

“So the Lord cut off Israel's head and tail,both the shoots and stalk in one day. The leaders and the highly respected are the head,the prophets who teach lies are the tail” (9:14-15). “Both of these will come upon you suddenly, in one day!You will lose your children and be widowed. You will be overwhelmed by these tragedies, despite your many incantations and your numerous amulets. You were complacent in your evil deeds; you thought, 'No one sees me. 'Your selfprofessed wisdom and knowledge lead you astray, when you say, 'I am unique! No one can compare to me!' Disaster will come upon you; you will not know how to charm it away. Destruction will fall on you; you will not be able to appease it. Calamity will come upon you suddenly, before you recognize it. Persist in trusting your amulets and your many incantations, which you have faithfully recited since your youth! Maybe you will be successful--maybe you will scare away disaster. You are tired out from listening to so much advice. Let them take their stand--the ones who see omens in the sky, who gaze at the stars, who make monthly predictions-let them rescue you from the disaster that is coming upon you! Look, they are like straw, which the fire burns up; they cannot rescue themselves from the heat of the flames. There are no coals to warm them, no firelight to enjoy. They will disappoint you, those you have so faithfully dealt with since your youth. Each strays off in his own direction, leaving no one to rescue you" (47:9-15). Jude is also referring to the prophecies of other prophets, including Jeremiah, Hosea and Zephaniah. “Because of that, the Lord, the God who rules over all, said to me, ‘Because these people have spoken like this, I will make the words that I put in your mouth like fire. And I will make this people like wood which the fiery judgments you speak will burn up… The prophets prophesy lies. The priests exercise power by their own authority. And my people love to have it that way. But what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:14, 31). “The time of judgment is about to arrive! The time of retribution is imminent! Let Israel know! The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man is viewed as a madman, because of the multitude of your sins and your intense animosity. The prophet is a watchman over Ephraim on behalf of God, yet traps are laid for him along all of his paths; animosity rages against him in the land of his God. They have sunk deep into corruption as in the days of Gibeah. He will remember their wrongdoing. He will repay them for their sins” (Hosea 9:7-9).

Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

“The filthy, stained city is as good as dead; the city filled with oppressors is finished. She is disobedient; she refuses correction. She does not trust the Lord; she does not seek the advice of her God” (Zephaniah 3:1-2). The contexts refer constantly to the false prophets of Israel and Judah’s day. Because the prophets failed to prophesy truth, the people perished. The prophets presumed that because Israel was the people of God, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted and they would still be God’s people, blessed by Him. And this is just what Jude refers to in verse 4 when he refers to these same false teachers and prophets as being “ungodly men who have turned the grace of God into license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The verdict (or “condemnation” as the word is translated in Jude 4) was death and destruction for these prophets. These prophecies, therefore, conclude for us that this is what Jude was referring to and not a concept of double-predestination. I encourage all readers, especially my Reformed brothers, to study these passages and see for yourself if this is not indeed what Jude is referring to, in light of the overall context of the letter. For me the conclusion is that Jude is reminding his readers of the ancient biblical warnings about apostasy and the verdict of God that it has brought in the past and which it will therefore bring in the present and future.