The Epistle of Jude, part 12
Apr 02, 2019
The next analogy is found in Jude 13, which says,
13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever [eis aiona, “for an age”].
Here Jude compares the Gnostics with “wild waves of the sea,” because waves leave foam and debris along the shoreline, even as the Gnostics expose “their own shame.” The word shame is used in the Hebraic sense, not only of being ashamed but, by implication, an idol. The Hebrew word is bosheth.
An example of this is found in Jeremiah 3:24, “But the shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth.” Again, we read in Hosea 9:10, “But they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame.”
As Jude was of Judah and was writing primarily to his fellow countrymen, his audience would have understood the implication of bosheth. Jude was telling them that the Gnostics were not true followers of Christ but were worshiping other gods in the temple in the guise of worshiping the God of Israel. In Jeremiah 2:28 the prophet asks,
28 But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah.
The prophet denounced this pretense, but the people themselves appeared to be blind to what they were doing. Jeremiah 2:35 puts words in their mouths, saying,
35 Yet you said, “I am innocent; surely His anger is turned away from me.” Behold, I will enter into judgment with you because you say, “I have not sinned.”
The purpose of Jude’s epistle was largely the same as Jeremiah’s writing in this way. Both of them saw the problem, but there were many in their audiences that were blind to it. In fact, such is the nature of idolatry, for men do not recognize idols in their hearts until they are overthrown.
Wandering Stars (Planets)
The next analogy that Jude uses compares the Gnostic teachers to “wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved for ever” (i.e., “for the age,” as The Emphatic Diaglott correctly reads).
In the terminology of the day, there were “fixed stars” and “wandering stars” in the heavens. The wandering stars were called by the Greek term, astares planetai. They are the planets, which appear to move in the heavens. In those days the moon and sun were considered to be the closest planets, followed by five (genuine) planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. These formed the basis of the mystery religions in those days.
It is evident that Jude gave no religious credence to the planets. His analogy suggests the Gnostic view involved pointless wandering (speculations and mythology) that went nowhere.
The Gnostic Gospels
Gnosticism, however, had found fertile ground in Egypt, giving rise to the so-called Gnostic Gospels of that era. Many of them were discovered by archeologists in 1945.
That is why and how the Gnostic gospels were created. The Gnostics fraudulently attached the names of famous Christians to their writings, such as the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Philip, the gospel of Mary, etc. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in southern Egypt in 1945 represented a major discovery of Gnostic gospels. These Gnostic gospels are often pointed to as supposed "lost books of the Bible."
These Gnostic Gospels were never accepted outside of Gnostic circles. It was a common literary tactic in those days to write under a pseudonym, and in order to give books credence, men often attributed their writing to a more famous person. This tactic was well known in the early Church, and for this reason they were more discriminatory than many Christians are today. For good reason the Gnostic Gospels were excluded from the canon of the New Testament.
In my view, the Apostle John was charged with formalizing the canon, as I explained in chapters 23 and 24 of my book, Lessons from Church History, Vol. 1. Before Paul died, he charged Timothy with the responsibility of delivering his epistles to John for inclusion in the canon. John’s mission was complete only after finishing the book of Revelation in 96 A.D., just before his death in the year 100.
In later years the Church Councils examined the evidence and formalized the canon that had already been adopted and used by the majority of the early Church. There are no “lost gospels” as such. There are some letters that Paul did not see fit to include in the canon, of course, such as a third letter to the Corinthians. There were also many other writings in the early Church which did not attempt to use pseudonyms to deceive the people. The Gnostic Gospels specifically engaged in deception, as part of its overall character, and so we ought not to think that their writings were “lost books of the Bible.” God did not lose any inspired writings.
The Fate of the Gnostics
As mentioned previously, Jude 13 tells us that the Gnostics were like “wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved for an age,” that is, the Age of Judgment that was yet to come. The idea of a Messianic Age had been long established in Judaism, often referred to as “The Age.”
αἰών aiṓn, ahee-ohn'; from the same as G104; properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future)
Judaism understood “The Age” to be the Great Sabbath Millennium, the 7th thousand year period since creation, wherein the Messiah’s Kingdom would rule the earth, and wherein the Jews would essentially enslave all other ethnic groups. Their basic concept of the Sabbath Millennium was not refuted in John’s treatment of this Age in Revelation 20. John only disagrees with the Jews insofar as who is the Christ and who will actually rule and reign with Him. The Jews looked for another messiah who was better suited to their nationalist agenda, whereas John saw only mature believers in Jesus as being qualified to rule with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4, 5, 6).
The Age of Judgment
John also distinguishes between the Messianic Age and the Age of Judgment that begins at the end of the thousand years (Revelation 20:7-15). The Great Sabbath will give rest to the earth as the great “stone” grows until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). At the start of the eighth “day” (millennium) all of the dead from past generations will be raised for judgment. They will then be enslaved under the judgment of the law for that final Age, ending only with the Creation Jubilee that sets all creation free from slavery (Romans 8:20, 21).
The carnal Jewish belief that non-Jews will be enslaved to Jews is based on the idea of self-interest, no different from the slavery that has been practiced among the nations since the beginning. Biblical slavery is different in that it is ultimately for the benefit of the slave. Biblical slavery is imposed as the result of sin (Exodus 22:3) in order to make payment on a debt. Such slaves are sold to redeemers who are willing to take responsibility for the sinner’s debt. The spirit of the law also makes those redeemers responsible to be like Christ to the slave and to bring him to spiritual maturity and the place of forgiveness and restoration.
Hence, when John speaks of the Age of Judgment in terms of “the lake of fire,” he was not intending this to be a torture pit but an application of the “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV) coming from the throne of God as a “river of fire” (Daniel 7:9, 10). This judgment is whatever the law prescribes, including payment of restitution (Exodus 22:3), or flogging (Luke 12:48, 49). The “river of fire” is the judgment being meted out, while the “lake of fire” is the outworking of that judgment over time. The fire is not to be taken in a literal sense but as a metaphor for the law of God itself by which all judgment is rendered.
Jude’s point was to show that the Gnostics would be judged for “an age.” Though he does not take the time to distinguish between the ages to come, we understand from many other passages that there is more than one age yet to come. For example, Revelation 11:15 speaks of “the ages of the ages” (aionas ton aionian). These are the culmination of the ages in general, the greatest of the ages. John defines these ages more specifically in terms of the Sabbath Millennium and (afterward) the Age of Judgment.
Jude’s reference, then, states that the Gnostics will be brought to judgment in a coming Age. He was not telling us that this judgment would last “forever,” as the KJV, NASB, and some other translations indicate. The word aion is simply an age. For this reason, Young’s Literal New Testament renders it, “to whom the gloom of the darkness to the age hath been kept.”
Rotherham’s The Emphasized Bible renders the same passage, “for whom the gloom of darkness age-abiding hath been reserved.” Ivan Panin’s Numeric New Testament reads, “for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved unto the age.” The Concordant Literal New Testament reads, “for whom the gloom of darkness has been kept for an eon.” The Emphatic Diaglott reads, “for which has been kept the gloom of darkness for the Age.”
So while Jude did not refrain from telling us that the Gnostics would be judged, he did not say that their judgment would be endless. All divine judgment is limited. Floggings are limited to 40 stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3) and slavery is limited to the time prior to the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:54).
The merciful judgments of God are thus remedial and corrective in nature, designed even to bring the Gnostics into alignment with the mind of Christ and to win their love.
This is part 12 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Jude" To view all parts, click the link below.