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Jude 14-16 “An Historical Precedent for Judgment”

So, concerning these men, Enoch also prophesied in the seventh generation from Adam saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all and to convict all the ungodly according to their ungodly works which they have done in an ungodly way and according to all of the harsh things which ungodly sinners spoke against Him.’ These are grumblers, malcontents who follow after their own lusts and their mouth speaks arrogantly, flattering faces for the sake of gain.

These verses mark Jude’s concluding accusations against the Judaean insurgents. The climax of his argument was expressed at the beginning of v. 11 (Woe to them! They are damned!) with the subsequent verses proving the truthfulness of that statement (vv. 11b-13). These verses conclude Jude’s accusation against these men by assuring his readers of righteous justice being served. He reaches back as far as humanly possible to the days of Enoch in order to establish an historical precedent for divine judgment (vv. 14-15) before applying that precedent to the current situation of Zealot insurgents within the Judaean believing community (v. 16). In short, Jude provides two reasons that prove the Zealots’ godless state is worthy of divine judgment and should therefore expect it.

Historical Precedent for Judgment (vv. 14-15)

With this reference to Enoch, a host of questions and debate ensue. Is Jude quoting from the work we know as 1 Enoch? If so, does Jude consider this work worthy of the canon? If he does, should we reconsider our evaluation of Jude’s work (i.e.; reconsider Jude’s place in the canon of Scripture)? These questions and more crowd the pages of commentaries with very little consideration regarding Jude’s purpose at this point.

The question has very little to do with whether Jude considered 1 Enoch to be God-breathed Scripture and much more to do with whether or not Jude believed the historical reality of what Enoch is here claimed to have said. While it is certain that Jude’s source is the literary work we call 1 Enoch[1] it is also certain that Jude is quoting the man Enoch rather than the book 1 Enoch.[2] That is to say, Jude’s quotation is an affirmation that Enoch said these words, not that 1 Enoch is inspired. For Jude, the important thing is what the man Enoch, the one who lived in the seventh generation from Adam, had to say regarding the judgment of God.

Enoch’s Prophecy (v. 14)

So, concerning these men, Enoch also prophesied in the seventh generation from Adam saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with thousands of His holy ones

By appealing to Enoch, Jude reaches back as far as humanly possible regarding statements of divine judgment. Enoch made this oracle in the context of intense rebellion against God a few thousand years before Moses ever picked up his pen. Enoch is actually the first ray of hope that is present in Genesis chapter five. The context of Seth’s line is bittersweet in the sense that this is when men again began to call on the name of Yhwh (4:26), but each subsequent person introduced always dies as a result of the curse (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31). The only person to escape death in this genealogy is our Enoch. Enoch escaped the judgment of the curse while his son Methuselah lives as a warning of coming judgment (מְתוּשֶׁלַח: מת + שׁלח = he sends death). It is a fact that Methuselah died the same year that the flood waters came. The relation we have to Enoch is the fact that Enoch’s words are the beginning of our precedence regarding divine judgment. In other words, this is the oldest precedent humanity has of a prophecy depicting divine judgment.

We know that Jude added to Enoch’s words because all translations that we have of Enoch’s oracle do not have the term Lord (κύριος). The context of 1 Enoch makes it plain that God is the referent, but Jude (not bothering with the peripheral context) purposefully inserts “Lord” into this quotation. It is Jude’s distinct purpose to state that Enoch’s prophecy depicts not just God, but the Lord. This is significant for two reasons. First, Jude makes sure to tie into the tradition of the Septuagint by writing Lord (κύριος) whenever Yhwh (יהוה) is used. As in vv. 5&9, the covenant name of God in view. This is made more obvious when comparing the final phrase with Moses’ blessing of Israel as he looks back upon Yhwh’s theophany upon Sinai: “the Lord came with thousands of His holy ones” (Jude 14c) vs. “He [Yhwh] came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones” (Deut. 33:2c). The theophany of Sinai will be repeated when the Lord and Master Jesus Christ returns surrounded by His angels.

Second, as already alluded to, the context of the Lord coming to judge and convict fits the New Testament descriptions of Jesus’ return (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:10). Jude shrewdly takes Enoch’s prophecy and connects this future judgment to not only Israel’s God, Yhwh, but also to Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. The book of 1 Enoch was widely read and respected in Judaea in the 1st century AD. It is likely that the insurgent Zealots knew this passage very well and even anticipated God’s judgment of the ungodly. What Jude does is state not only that Jesus, the Master and Lord they rejected, is the Lord who will render these judgments but also that they are the ungodly who will be judged. The prophecy continues into v. 15 with two complementary infinitives (to judge/to convict) that reveal the Lord’s purpose in coming.

The Lord’s Purpose (v. 15)

A careful reading of this verse reveals several interesting repetitions. The adjective πᾶς (all/every) is used 4x in this one verse. Additionally, every conceivable form of the term “ungodly” (ἀσέβεια, ἀσεβέω, ἀσεβής) is also used in this single verse. It seems that the traditional reading (“…to convict all the ungodly (ἐλέγξαι παντας τους ασεβεις)…” UBS2-4, NA26) is preferable to the updated critical text (“…to convict every soul (ἐλέγξαι πᾶσαν ψυχὴν)…” UBS5, NA27-28).[3] In short, there is a great amount of emphasis upon both the godly and the all-encompassing nature of divine judgment.

To Judge

To execute judgment upon all

The Lord’s coming is presented as a two-fold mission statement, the first of which is to “execute judgment.” Woodenly translated “to do judgment” (ποιῆσαι κρίσιν) the idea is that of a judge doing his job; that is, the making of decisions, weighing evidence, thinking through arguments and casting all of it against the light of the righteous law. The first purpose of the Lord’s coming is to “do judgment” upon all. No one will escape His judgment. All will sit under His tribunal. None will be spared. This general statement gives way to a much more specific aspect of the Lord’s purpose.

To Convict

And to convict all the ungodly according to their ungodly works which they have done in an ungodly way and according to all of the harsh things which ungodly sinners spoke against Him

To convict” is a much more specific term that “to judge.” If one sits in judgment, only the process of making a decision is in view. A conviction, on the other hand, assumes a guilty verdict that can be proven beyond any doubt. Jude also draws a more specific circle around those who will be convicted. No longer is the divine eye upon all people but on all the ungodly. As creator and owner of all things, God has a right to sit in judgment over His creation. But because God is good and does good, it is right that this judgment produces a conviction against the ungodly, godless, and impious. Two prepositional phrases reveal the standard (περὶ) used to convict these godless men. These two lines of reasoning run naturally along the lines of what they do and what they say.

The ungodly persons will first be convicted according to their ungodly works which they do in an ungodly way. There is no clearer way to state the fact that we are dealing with ungodly people. Jude is still using Enoch’s words at this juncture, and both agree that the ungodly are deserving of divine conviction. The point is two-fold: (1) ungodly people are only capable of ungodliness and (2) every deed will be taken into account in this conviction. The same is true when the Lord changes focus from deeds to words.

The ungodly will also be convicted according to (περὶ) their harsh words which they spoke as the ungodly sinners that they are when speaking against the Lord. These “harsh” (σκληρός) words do not indicate hard or difficult words, but words that are rough, offensive, and unpleasant. These words were spoken against Him (κατ᾽ αὐτοῦ), that is, against the Lord who came to judge and convict. Once again, we see the chief crime of these Zealot insurgents is not their rudeness, violence, or political radicalism but their rejection of our only Master and Lord. They will answer for their rough speech against the Lord who will stand to convict them. He will have the final say.

Enoch’s statement of divine eschatological judgment fits perfectly with everything the Bible has to say on the matter. Three basic truths are seen here: (1) God will come to earth in order to judge humanity, (2) mankind will be held accountable for what was done and said, and (3) no one will escape this judgment. Jude brings this up as a final salvo against these insurgents. They will not escape the judgment of the one they have rejected. No matter what happens in the next weeks, months, or years, the end will see them judged and convicted.

Present Expectation of Judgment (v. 16)

Jude again employs the demonstrative pronoun (οὗτοί) to point back to his quarry. Jude’s point is divided between two statements joined by καὶ. Each statement has its own controlling verb and modifying participle so that the verse contains two balanced statements: They are grumblers, malcontents following their own desires AND their mouth speaks arrogantly flattering faces for the sake of gain.

Since the historical precedent has been set (vv. 14-15) according to what a man does and what he says, Jude now presents what these insurgent Zealots do and what they say in order to prove that they are certainly worthy of Enoch’s judgment.

Deeds Worthy of Conviction (v. 16a)

These are grumblers, malcontents who follow after their own lusts

The verb of being (εἰσιν) introduces what the insurgents are. The assumption is that they are because of what they do. They are grumblers because they grumble. They are malcontents because they are not contented. The term grumblers is onomatopoetic (γογγυστής), that is, it is pronounced as if one is grumbling and muttering under one’s breath. Some translations render μεμψίμοιροι as finding fault because the idea of being a malcontent is explained by the constantly finding fault in a person, place, or situation. Because the situation is never good enough, there is a lack of contentment. Thus, they depart in order to follow after their own desires. “Desires” (ἐπιθυμία) is often used to describe sexual urges/lusts, though no such specific idea is warranted here. The point is that the insurgents are unhappy with and grumble against what is good and godly because that is not what they desire. As such, they pursue their own desires in order to receive the kind of gratification they long for. It is impossible to reason with, appease, or quiet the grumbling of the unregenerate. One cannot remain faithful while appeasing reprobates. These men find fault and are discontented because their desires are different than the Lord’s desire. Therefore, they follow after their own desires. They are convicted because of what they do.

Words Worthy of Conviction (v. 16b)

And their mouth speaks arrogantly, flattering faces for the sake of gain.

Jude again brings attention to the mouth and its utterings. It is interesting that he uses a singular verb when dealing with a plural subject. It is almost as if the insurgents speak with a united mouth with a singular message. What comes out of this mouth is arrogance. Ὑπλεργκος indicates that which is haughty, pompous, and bombastic. The idea is “big talk” or those with big mouths.[4] The participle phrase that fleshes this out is based on a common Hebraism[5] woodenly translated as “lifting the face” indicating a showing or partiality (Lev. 19:15; Job. 13:10).[6] To lift up the face is to show favoritism through word or deed. Because the mouth is in view, this favoritism is probably in the venue of flattery, lifting up one’s countenance through speech.

This is a contrasting picture from what was just mentioned about their grumbling. It pictures a person who grumbles under his breath because he is not getting his way but when an influential member comes within earshot, his tune and tenor changes in order to flatter that member and thus manipulate him for the sake of gain. They are convicted not only by what they do, but also by what they say. The historical precedent from Enoch bases judgment and conviction on what is done and said by the ungodly. Jude proves that the present insurgents are worthy of such judgment.


This marks a sad reflection when we consider the whole situation that Jude faces. We often look down our noses at such situations and think to ourselves, how on earth could they have allowed such godless men to creep in unnoticed? The answer to that question may be found in v. 16. Men will allow flatterers to get away with just about anything. Flattery is the most successful form of deception and means of manipulation. Some people realize they’re being flattered and just don’t care. Such is the danger of vanity. This is a tool that can never be used by the redeemed. There is never a context in which flattery is safe, advisable, or anything less than sinful. At its core, flattery is always deceptive. These men grumble on the one hand and lie on the other. These are both sure signs of a reprobate and should never describe the redeemed.

May we also be known by what we do and what we say. May our deeds and speech glorify Christ rather than rail against Him. May we submit to Him in word, manner, and deed in all things. For He is coming to judge and convict. May He find us to be godly rather than godless when He returns.

Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 263-7. [2] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 638. [3] Herbert Bateman, Jude, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), p. 298-9. [4] Hiebert, p. 271-2. [5] Jewish author, Jewish audience, Jewish context. [6] Archibald Robertson, The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol. VI, VI vols., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), p. 193.

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