Jude was the brother of James, probably of the apostle, James the Less. It is possible he refers to James, the brother of the Lord, and, if so, this James was no doubt dead (cir. 62 AD) at the time of Jude’s epistle. Jude mentions a trial that came upon the Messianic believers, trying their faith (Jude 1:3). Ungodly men had secretly crept into the ranks of the flock and were in some fashion tempting the brethren (Jude 1:4). How were they going about this? First of all, they slandered the present leaders (Jude 1:8). They despised the leadership of God’s Spirit. Secondly, they mumbled to themselves or whispered to others about matter not to their liking. Then, they openly complained and finally spoke against the Gospel of Christ in a manner that appealed to the desires some within the body, and in so doing they exalted their own authority (Jude 1:16; cf. verse-4).
These men began by going the way of Cain—expressing hate for their brother. Secondly, they ran greedily after the error of Balaam—teaching God’s people to follow their own desires. Finally, they went after the way of Korah, the Levite leader who was not satisfied with the service God had given him (Numbers 16:1-3)—reaching out against the present leadership to take over the flock of God (cf. Jude 1:11).
This was the picture of the trial that had come upon the Messianic believers throughout the empire. As I have been saying in several blogs, Annas, the false prophet of the book of Revelation, had begun a final attempt to take control of and destroy the Messianic wing of of the Jewish nation. This also affected gentile believers, because believers in Jesus were not known widely as Christians at this early date. They were considered a sect of Judaism. The trial that had come upon them came from the leadership at Jerusalem (the Sadducees). Rome up until this date had not persecuted the Christian faith. This was not done until Nero blamed Christians for the fire at Rome. He was the first Emperor to persecute believers, and it may have been done through the influence of Annas, the Jewish high priest. He had great influence with the Caesars. Annas was Rome’s first choice for the office of high priest in Jerusalem (cir. 6 AD), and Rome had seven more from Annas’ family appointed to that office. Before his death, Annas had served in the Jewish leadership at Jerusalem some 60 years. There was no one as powerful as he in Jerusalem.
The trial that had engulfed the majority, if not all, of the churches of God in the Diaspora had to have had a single source behind it. It was a conspiracy having the same or similar effects throughout all the Messianic assemblies. How could all or nearly all the churches have been affected by false teachers at the same time, preaching the same things, without their having a common source? It is illogical to presume all this occurred by chance. If it had to have had a common source, what would have been the logical source for the churches’ problems? First of all, enemies had crept in secretly. Paul called them false brethren, and they had tried not only to defame him, but they sought to intimidate gentile believers into undergoing circumcision rites, which would have made them Jews. If the common source was Jewish in origin, how could it possibly have engulfed the entire empire at the same time with the same lying message? Who had that kind of influence? I submit that it could only have been Annas, the senior high priest in Jerusalem.
It was prophesied from the beginning that these false teachers would arise (Jude 1:18), and what they would preach involved walking after the desires of the flesh, which resulted in separating brethren from brethren (Jude 1:19). This they did, because they had forgotten how the Lord judged such things in the past (Jude 1:5). They were blemishes upon the garment of love of the believers, as they fearlessly joined in the assembly, not having the Spirit of God. Their works were not the lasting works of the Spirit, but were the kind whose fruit perished, because they were rooted in the lusts of men (Jude 1:12).
Jude concluded his epistle by encouraging the brethren to keep themselves in the love of God, praying in the Spirit and building themselves up in the faith (Jude 1:21), but they were not to act in accordance with the work of the false teachers (Jude 1:14). In other words they were not to fight back in kind, but in all things express the love of Christ. Jude 1:22-23).