Peter & Jude
Peter’s second letter and Jude’s letter were both written at about the same time, and to similar groups of people. They are both concerned that the church would be swayed by false teaching, particularly that God’s grace gave license to sin.
Jude 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.
There are so many similarities between Peter’s second letter and Jude’s letter, the similarities in theme, examples used, and nearly every specific detail are so close that it seems that one apostle must have had the other’s letter before him while writing his own.
The majority of scholars (but not all) place Jude’s writing before that of Peter’s. I find this difficult to reconcile with the fact that Peter seems to speak of the false prophets and mockers in the future tense (2 Peter 2:1; 3:3) while Jude announces that these same have already appeared (Jude 4,17). Unless, of course, Peter is simply citing what the apostles and prophets had been saying earlier (2 Peter 3:1-2).
Nevertheless, whichever was actually written first, it is clear that whereas Peter might give the impression that the last-days mockers are yet to come, or perhaps here with us now (i.e. in the 21st Century – many suggest they are anti-creationists; some suggest they are preterists!), Jude makes it clear that they were talking about people who were alive at their time.
It is no longer in their future tense, but in their present!
It is not in our future tense, but in our past!
Peter’s letter might, if so desired, give the impression that he was referring to two separate groups of people:
- False prophets, secretly introducing heresies and denying the Master (Jesus) (2 Peter 2:1), and
- Last-day mockers, following after their own lusts and cynical about the promise of Jesus’ return (2 Peter 3:3).
Jude shows that these are the same group of people, these ‘certain people’ who have crept in unnoticed (Jude 4 = 2 Peter 2:1), distorting gospel and denying the Master, and who are the grumblers, finding fault and following after their own lusts (Jude 17 = 2 Peter 3:3). The reason for the ‘break’ is the ‘aside’ in which Peter reminds the scattered Christians (1 Peter 1:1) to remember the words that had been spoken to them, and then perhaps brings it up to the present in verse 5.
Jude then actually reminds his readers of what was spoken about them (Jude 17,18), virtually quoting Peter (or perhaps they are both quoting an earlier source).
What can we say about these people that had crept in unnoticed and prompted Jude to write his letter?
They were written about long beforehand.
Jude 4: – … long ago beforehand marked out for this condemnation…
An alternate translation is: written about long ago beforehand for this condemnation. According to Jude, it was Enoch who had written about them, that against them the Lord would come with many thousands of His holy ones (Jude 14). Peter states, “Their judgement from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3)
They were to be judged in this world (not just after their death).
2 Peter 2:1 – … bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
They were not just going to be judged, but destroyed, and swiftly. These ‘certain persons’ (not a generalised group of people that would exist through the generations) would suffer swift destruction, at the hands of God’s holy ones. (Note: The Medes were called by God ‘My consecrated ones, … My mighty warriors’ in Isaiah 13. God’s ‘holy ones’ were whomever He set apart for His purpose.)
Now, many claim that the last days are all the days from then to now and beyond, that is, a last age rather than days. If this were so, then the judgement, the swift destruction of the very people that Jude was talking about would not have occurred. But Jude states that the Lord would come against them, “these men” of verses 8, 10, 12, 14), the ones who had crept in (verse 4), with His holy ones! (v14,15)
They would appear in the last days.
Jude 17 – … “In the last time there will be mockers.” 2 Peter 3:3 – In the last days mockers will come with their mocking.
What last days? Last days of what?
In Hebrews 1:2 and 1 Peter 1:20 they are called ‘these last days’, or at ‘the end of these days’. In other words, the days of the Old Covenant.
The false prophets, that is, mockers who misrepresented God’s word, turning people away from their diligent preparation for Jesus’ return, were the direct subject of ancient prophesies pertaining to God’s judgement of the wicked. Although the coming judgement was primarily directed against the guilty Jewish leaders upon whom fell “the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth,” (Matthew 23:35) these people, by preying on God’s people, were every bit as condemned.
These people were alive then. They would face the judgement in their lifetime, just as Jesus had told the Jewish leaders: “all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:36)
Whatever you might say about the Bible being relevant for today, these words would have had no relevance at all, in fact would have been false, if they did not directly apply to the contemporaries of Jude and Peter.