In verses 17 and 18 Jude reminds his readers of what the apostles Paul and Peter had said. Although the apostle John's epistles were written after Jude's epistle, John is an apostle nonetheless and he does have some words of warning to give so he ought to be included along with the other two. Starting with Paul, he issued a warning to the church at Ephesus regarding apostasy in Acts 20:29,30: "For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things, in order to draw away the disciples after themselves." Here, the warning is two-fold - false prophets from within and without the flock would rise up among the believers to draw some away after themselves and their own peverse doctrine. If this warning was applicable when the body of Christ was in its infancy, it is much more so today after two millenia. We still have men and women rising up, teaching sensual, alluring doctrines to draw away would be disciples of Christ to be disciples of themselves. We see teachers such as Norman Vincent Peale and talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey drawing believers away from Christ to rely on themselves through positive thinking. We also see teachers within the flock such as Rick Warren whose P.E.A.C.E. plan that thousands of churches across the U.S. have adopted as their own method of reaching out to unbelievers albeit without the gospel is not a major component in Warren's five point plan.
Paul gives further warning to his son in the faith, Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3. In his first letter, he warns Timothy of how in the latter times many would depart from the faith.
1 Timothy 4 describes the seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, and hypocritical lies taught by those who depart from the faith. 1 Tim. 4:1-3: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
This scathing description brings to my mind one theologian in particular: Augustine of Hippo. Augustine has over the centuries had a far-reaching influence on both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church. Before professing faith in Christ, Augustine was a well known philosopher in throughout North Africa. He was at first a Manichaeist, and then a Neo-Platonist - both philosophies are gnostic and ascetic in doctrine and practice and Augustine borrowed much from these worldly teachings when his understanding of God took shape. Lawrence Vance writes: "In the dualism of the Manichaean system, the world was a struggle between Light and Darkness. The Manichees were to assist in the separation of Light from the world by asceticism, celibacy, poverty and vegetarianism - all practiced later by Augustine. It is also interesting to note that the Manichees divided into two groups: a minority, termed the Elect, and the majority known as Auditors or Hearers."(1)
Augustine not only practiced these ascetic customs that Paul clearly warned would happen, he also justified persecution of the Donatists, dissenting believers who seperated from Constantine's catholic state church. "I would not believe the gospel if I were not commanded to by the catholic church." Augustine is known to have said. It has been said that Augustine is responsible for the three biggest controversies the Church has ever faced: Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, and amillenialism. More could be said about the travesties done by Augustine, but I digress. Perhaps this will provide fodder for a future post.
Paul gives yet another warning in his second epistle to Timothy in the third chapter. We read 2 Tim. 3:1-9: This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
When broken down, we can see that the people who profess Christ as their Savior that Paul is describing here in 2 Timothy are blatantly disobedient to commands given throughout scripture. They shall be lovers of themselves - unlike the character of Christ who did not please himself as it is written, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." (Rom. 15:3). In these last days, men will love themselves more than the local body of believers. And if there is no love for the local body of believers, how will there be love for the unevangelized? The Church is like a family, all who call Christ their Savior are united as brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we do not love our spiritual family as we ought, I doubt there will be any desire to bring more people into the family of God.
Men will also be covetous - the greek verb: φιλάργυρος- translated philarguros, literally means "fond of silver, to love money, avarice." Notice that the first two descriptions here are about love; first for one's self, and second for money. When Gehazi conversed with Naaman and asked of him a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing, it was out of a fondness for silver. So great was his avarice that he preyed on Naaman's generosity - generosity that was no doubt a fruit of his new condition. Gehazi, like a modern day false teacher preyed on this new convert to rob his pockets. As a result, Gehazi inherited the leprosy of Naaman. Gehazi's leprosy, a type of sin leprosy is, had its cause in the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10)
The next two descriptions seem to go together: boasters, and proud. To boast speaks of being a braggart, while proud in the third verse speaks of one who holds themselves in higher esteem than others, considering themselves to be pre-eminent. Diotrephes was guilty of this kind of pride, so much so that he refused the apostle John. The word for boast is similar in meaning to the word for "glory" or "rejoice" which Paul uses in numerous verses throughout his epistles. When making use of this word for "glory", he always points out that if we are to glory, then we ought to glory in the Lord. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks with an air of ironic wit of how he has been compelled to be made a fool through his glorying. The end times however, will see an increase in men glorying of themselves, and they won't think twice about looking foolish.
The Greek word for blasphemers in the third verse is transliterated as blasphemos and it literally means to speak evil of. It appears elsewhere in scripture in Acts 6:11,13 as well as 2 Peter 2:11. It is similar to the word used in Jude 1:9 in the context of Michael contending with Satan over the body of Moses and "durst not bring against him a railing accusation". The word "railing" in this verse is the noun form of the adjective blasphemos that is used here in 2 Timothy.
Disobedient to parents is a unique description of those who depart from the faith in this passage in that this is something even pagan nations did not think highly of. In his Notes on the Bible Albert Barnes writes “Disobedience to parents was punished by the Jewish Law with death, and with the Hindus it is attended with the loss of the child’s inheritance. The ancient Greeks considered the neglect of it to be extremely impious, and attended with the most certain effects of divine vengeance. Solon ordered all persons who refused to make due provision for their parents to be punished with infamy, and the same penalty was incurred for personal violence toward them.”
The next to last description in the second verse of 2 Timothy 2 is unthankful, which literally means being unthankful, or ungrateful. But the meaning carries much more than merely describing one who is not thankful. The word is transliterated as acharistos; the prefix "a" connotes the absence or non-existence of some quality in this case, the quality of gratefulness, but also graciousness as the second part of this word is the verb "charizomai" and is derived from the noun "charis" meaning "graciousness". This word "charis" appears as the word "grace" in many well-known verses such as John 1:14, Romans 4:4, 11:5-6, Ephesians 2:7-8, et. al. It is used as "thank" or "thanks" in 1 Corinthians 15:57, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 9:15, 1 Timothy 1:12, and 2 Timothy 1:3. The word "charizomai" is used for a form of the word "forgive" in verses such as Luke 7:42-43, 2 Corinthians 2:7 & 10, Ephesians 4:32, and Colossians 3:13. In these last days professing believers will more and more be not only thankful to God for His unspeakable gift, but they will also be unforgiving to one another.
The very last description of this verse is "unholy". Like the word "unthankful", the Greek word has the prefix 'a' to indicate that the meaning of this word carries the idea that it is the absence of something - that is, holiness through divine character made possible only by the Spirit of God. The word without the 'a' is found in Titus 1:8 in Paul's description to Titus of what a shepherd of the flock must be.
Footnotes: quoted by Gerald Bonner, "St Augustine of Hippo" in "The Other Side of Calvinism" by Laurence Vance.