Have you ever been in a gathering or meeting where someone is talking, and you think to yourself, “I don’t know what this guy is talking about”? You’re hearing his words, but you’re not understanding him. Maybe he’s using jargon you’re not really familiar with. But here’s the thing, no one in the group listening to him is giving any indication that they don’t understand, so you feel awkward. To make matters worse, the way he is talking makes it seem like he believes what he is talking about it so common that of course everyone would know what he is talking about. You wonder if something is wrong with you because you are so confused.
Or have you ever been new to a group, maybe your first day or week on the job, or new to a school, new to a class, new to a volunteer group, or even new to a church, and someone says a line, a phrase, and everyone starts laughing, but you have no idea why? You realize, they just told an inside joke, and you have no history with them, so you feel like an outsider. It can feel really unsettling.
Over the years on this blog we’ve talked about how we Christians can have our own lingo. I’m referring to Christian phrases that we commonly use amongst ourselves, and most of us have a good idea of what we’re talking about. But if you were to use those phrases outside of a Christian setting people would probably give a strange look that says, “What in the world are you talking about?” Then I thought about it more and it struck me that sometimes even we don’t understand our own lingo. Do you ever feel like that?
I was thinking about this tendency recently, because the Scripture passage we’re studying this week has some important phrases that sound like insider language, but do we know what they mean? Take a look at the phrases listed below and think about what images or ideas pop into your minds as you read them:
Build yourselves up.
Pray in the Spirit.
Keep yourself in God’s love.
Do you know what they mean? They sound really Christian don’t they. Today we’re not going to assume that we know what they mean. Instead let’s investigate!
For the last few months on the blog, we have been reading other people’s mail. That mail has been the short letters in the New Testament: Titus, Philemon, 2nd John, 3rd John, and today we finish Jude. Last week we looked at Jude 1-16, and we learned that Jude was confronting the church about godless men whom the church had allowed to enter into their fellowship and make a mockery of things. So Jude asked the church to contend for the faith, which meant that the church needed to deal with these men. But how?
Now we move to the conclusion of Jude’s letter, verses 17-25, where we learn what contending for the faith looks like.
In verse 17, Jude continues by saying to the church, “Remember what the apostles of Jesus foretold.” What did the apostles foretell? Jude reminds them in verse 18: the apostles prophesied that a number of things would happen in the last times. There’s that first phrase I listed above.
What are the last times? It is possible that Jude is referring to 2 Peter 3:3 which is nearly identical to Jude 18. Here is 2 Peter 3:3, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” Compare that to Jude 18. See how similar they are?
In fact, if you study the text of 2 Peter and Jude, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities between the two letters. So it is possible that Peter was one of the apostles who prophesied this message, and Jude is referring to him. It could also be that both Peter and Jude were writing at the same time about the same situation.
Whenever we hear of last times, it raises the question, “Are we in the last times?” There are plenty of Christians who would like to believe that we are in fact in the last times. (That’s come up on the blog many times. See here and here, for example.) I have often heard people state that they have a strong belief that we are in the last days. But the reality is that we don’t know.
Jesus taught that no man knows the day, time or hour. So it is okay that we don’t know if we are in the last times. What is interesting to me is that here Jude is talking about the last times as if they were happening in his day and age. Do you know how long ago Jude wrote? Almost 2000 years ago. My guess is that there have been Christians in every era that felt like they were living in the last times. In recent memory I can think of no better era that seemed like it was the last days than World War 2. It had all the makings of the last days, from global war, to massive amounts of death, to evil leaders, and more. But it was not the last days, and our era is nowhere near as horrible as the situation was in WW2. We live in a far more peaceful time.
So my point is that we should take Jesus seriously when he said that no one knows the day, time or hour. But Jesus also said that we should be ready at all times. What does it mean to be ready?
Let’s stay with this and see if Jude answers it. I think he will!