Look! The Lord Comes: The Prophecy of Enoch
The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 13: Look! The Lord Comes: The Prophecy of Enoch.
Previously: The Doom of False Teachers
And Enoch, in the seventh [generation] from Adam, prophesied about them:
Look! The lord comes
with thousands of His holy ones
to execute judgment on all,
and to convict them
of all their ungodly deeds
that they have done
in an ungodly way,
and of all the harsh things
have said against Him.
These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage. (Jude 14-16 HCSB)
Most people who profess belief in Jesus anticipate His return. But when and how – and even in what form– He comes back is a matter of considerable debate.
Muslims, for example, believe Jesus is returning one day to destroy the Dajjal (Antichrist); break the cross as a declaration against the notion he was ever crucified; kill the pig, thus making pork universally prohibited; and abolish the Jizyah tax on Christians and Jews, as these former unbelievers now universally embrace Islam.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus (an exalted Michael the archangel) returned invisibly in 1914, began ruling as king over the whole earth, and now is preparing for his invisible “revelation” in the events of Armageddon and the beginning of the Millennium.
Baha’is teach that Baha’u’llah, a 19th century Iranian prophet, is both a manifestation of God and the second coming of Christ. In addition, he is the promised Holy Spirit, the Day of God, the Maiytrea (from Buddhism) and the Krishna (from Hinduism).
The Indian guru Paramahansa Yogananda offers a mystical interpretation of the Second Coming, in which it is understood as an inner experience that takes place within a person’s heart. The true Second Coming, he writes, is the resurrection within you of the Infinite Christ Consciousness.
Evangelical Christians hold a variety of views about the Second Coming.
Some evangelicals believe Jesus steps into the heavens to rapture His church either before, during, or at the end of a seven-year tribulation period, followed by His glorious, personal return to earth, which ushers in a 1,000-year period in which He sits on the throne of David and rules the world in righteousness. Others say that Jesus returns only after the world essentially becomes Christianized. Still others believe He simply returns one day to raise the dead, judge all people, and create new heavens and a new earth; Scriptures referring to tribulation periods and millennial kingdoms are to be taken figuratively.
While these pre-, post-, and amillennial views are distinct in their details, evangelicals are united in their beliefs that Jesus is returning personally, visibly, and physically one day to set things right; to resurrect and judge all people; to fully establish His kingdom on earth; and to restore the created order to sinless perfection.
There are many biblical prophecies about the return of Christ. No doubt, some are easier than others to fathom. But the Bible always has been the ultimate authority for evangelicals. So, with a rich tapestry of Old Testament insights into the Day of the Lord, why does Jude quote a prophecy of Christ’s return from a non-biblical source?
As we are about to discover, the prophecy of Enoch, while drawn from an apocryphal source, is consistent with prophecies of the Day of the Lord in Scripture. Further, quoting from non-biblical sources is neither unprecedented nor wrong for those writing under divine inspiration. But first things first.
Who is Enoch?
We must be careful not to confuse the Enoch to whom Jude refers with the eldest son of Cain. Cain builds a city east of Eden in the land of Nod and names the city Enoch after his son (Gen. 4:17). Enoch’s great-great grandson, Lamech, is the first recorded polygamist in the Bible, illustrating the corrupt progeny of Cain.
In contrast, the Enoch mentioned in the Book of Jude hails from the line of Seth. He is the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah (Gen. 5:21; Luke 3:37). Enoch is 65 years old when Methuselah is born. Then, according to Moses, Enoch “walks with God” 300 years and produces other sons and daughters. Finally, at the age of 365 – relatively young by comparison with Jared, who lives to be 962, and with Methuselah, who dies at 969 – we encounter one of the most unusual endings to an earthly life recorded in Scripture: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not there, because God took him” (Gen. 5:24).
Thus, Enoch shares with Elijah the distinction of being one of two biblical characters caught up into heaven without experiencing physical death. Enoch is featured in the Faith Hall of Fame in Heb. 11:5 – “By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God.” The writer of Hebrews then launches into one of the great statements about faith: “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
And then we come to the final mention of Enoch in Scripture – his prophecy recorded in Jude 14-15:
And Enoch, in the seventh [generation] from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all, and to convict them of all their ungodly deeds that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him.
Where can we find Enoch’s prophecy?
Nowhere in Scripture does Enoch’s prophecy appear, leading some to dispute the inspiration of the Book of Jude. After all, it is argued, if a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit shares an ancient prophecy about the end of days, why not select a prophecy that already has found its way into the canon? However, there is good reason to accept the prophecy of Enoch as the very words of God.
The quotation is from the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphical work attributed to the great-grandfather of Noah.This book is not considered canonical by any religious group, whether Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Greek or Russian Orthodox Church, or Protestantism. Possibly written in the second century B.C., and familiar to Jewish Christians, the book certainly is known to the church fathers of the second century. In fact, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and others quote from it.
The book is part of Jewish history and tradition, and rabbinical allusions to it are not uncommon. The Book of Enoch is then lost for some centuries, with the exception of a few fragments, before being rediscovered in its entirety in a copy of the Ethiopic Bible in the 18thcentury. Noah and Enoch are purportedly given revelations aimed at vindicating the ways of God, setting forth retribution reserved for sinners, and declaring that the world is under the sovereign rule of the Lord.
Specifically, Jude draws from Enoch 1:9, which reads:
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgment upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh
Of all the works of the ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
Jude’s quotation is similar but not identical to Enoch 1:9. Perhaps this is because Jude cites a portion of the Book of Enoch the Spirit confirms as genuine, tightening up the language from its non-inspired source. As Edward Pentecost writes, “If Jude quoted the apocryphal book, he was affirming only the truth of that prophecy and not endorsing the book in its entirety.”
As a side note, Jude says that Enoch “prophesied,” not “wrote.” Jude may be referring to a God-given prophetic word and not specifically to a book. We should not automatically conclude from the phrase “Enoch … prophesied” that Jude is citing a written work, or further, a written work considered Scripture.
In any case, it may help to consider the background of the Book of Enoch, which appears to be a secondary source that draws from the Old Testament. By quoting Enoch, then, Jude indirectly quotes the passages to which the Book of Enoch alludes. But which Hebrew Scriptures are Enoch’s primary sources?
James VanderKam, a professor of Hebrew Scriptures and a noted expert on the literature of Enoch, writes that Enoch’s reference to the “holy ones” derives from Job 5:1 and 15:15, as well as from Daniel 4. This reference to God’s celestial band recalls Deut. 33:2, while Zech. 14:5 envisions an advent of God along with His holy ones. Further, Dan. 7:10 pictures God as surrounded by myriads of heavenly attendants at the time of judgment.
Author George W.E. Nickelsburg adds that three other Old Testament passages may have influenced the writing of Enoch 1:3-5, 9. They are: Genesis 6-9, which repeatedly speaks of the corruption of all flesh and of the judgment that falls on all but a few people; Isa. 66:15-16; and Jer. 25:30-32.
The point here is that Jude does not simply snatch a convenient text from a non-canonical book in order to build his case. Rather, in quoting from the Book of Enoch, he affirms the Old Testament texts from which the book is drawn. There appears to be solid alignment between the Old Testament, Enoch 1:9, and Jude. Thus, drawing from Enoch and Old Testament passages, Jude applies Enoch’s prophecy to the false teachers of the last days, which include the interlopers of the first century.
W.M. Dunnett writes, “Jude clearly accepted it [Enoch 1:9] as an inspired, apparently historical, and true utterance, without necessarily placing approval on the entire content of the Book of Enoch.”
Although not included in the biblical record until Jude captures it, Enoch’s prophecy is the earliest human prophecy found anywhere in Scripture. Only the prophetic promise of God regarding the “seed of woman” is earlier (Gen. 3:15). In fact, Enoch’s message predates the words of Moses, Samuel, and the Hebrew prophets by many centuries.
Why trust a prophecy that doesn’t come from the Bible?
Still, we might ask why Jude draws from this material in the first place. Isn’t it better to quote directly from Deuteronomy, Job, Daniel, or another canonical book to make the point that the Lord is coming to execute judgment, and that He’s not coming alone? Perhaps. But Enoch’s prophecy is consistent with the others. Further, it argues the point in a concise and straightforward manner.
Equally important, Jude may be using this quotation because it comes from ancient literature his opponents favor. Thus, he turns their venerated scriptures against them, much as Jesus does to the Sadducees, who think they’ve wrestled Him to the ground on the issue of the resurrection with their hypothetical case of a woman married consecutively to seven brothers (Matt. 22:23-33). They ask, “[I]n the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had married her” (v. 28).
Jesus responds, in part, by taking them back to the Torah, which they regard as sacred. He could have cited Job 19:25-27 or Dan. 12:2, but instead He quotes from Exodus 3: “Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (vv. 31-32; quotation from Ex. 3:6, 15-16).
Perhaps in a similar way, Jude silences his critics by drawing from their vaunted texts to show that they are the objects of God’s future wrath.
We also should keep in mind that Jude’s quotation of a non-biblical source has a precedent in the apostle Paul. For example, in several separate passages, he quotes Greek poets (Epimenides and Aratus in Acts 17:28; Aeschylus in Acts 26:14; Menander and/or Euripides in 1 Cor. 15:33; and Epimenides in Titus 1:12). And in 2 Tim. 3:8, he alludes to ancient Jewish traditions. Yet Paul doesn’t endorse everything in these works, nor does he consider them Scripture. Like Paul, Jude cites familiar works to make a point. (See the nearby table, “Non-biblical Sources Cited by Paul and Jude.”)
While the sources from which Paul and Jude draw lack divine inspiration, they become part of inspired Scripture in the context of their epistles, written under the direction of the Holy Spirit. As one commentary notes, “As to the book of Enoch, if quoted by Jude, his quotation of a passage from it gives an inspired sanction only to the truth of that passage, not to the whole book; just as Paul, by inspiration, sanctions particular sentiments from Aratus, Epimenides, and Menander, but not all their writings.”
Who are the “holy ones” coming to execute judgment?
Who does Enoch have in mind when he prophesies that the Lord is coming with His “holy ones”? Most likely Enoch is thinking of angels, since they serve as agents of judgment at the return of Christ. In addition, the coming of Christ is patterned after the Lord’s appearance on Sinai, where He “came with ten thousand holy ones” (Deut. 33:2). But we should not discount the promise of God that the saints also accompany Jesus in His glorious appearing.
Jesus assures His followers that He is going to prepare for them a place in heaven, where they will live in His presence between death and resurrection (John 14:2-3). In addition, believers are promised a part in the judgment of the world and evil angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3), as well as a place of authority and service in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 22:1-5). Therefore, even if Enoch makes reference only to angels as “holy ones,” those who trust in Christ may rest assured that when He comes again, we return with Him.
It might be helpful to survey a few of the many Scriptures relating to the return of Christ, and the supporting role of angels and redeemed people:
Dan. 7:9-27. Daniel sees “thousands upon thousands” serving the Ancient of Days, and “ten thousand times ten thousand” standing before Him. Perhaps this is a reference to angels, or to people, or both. However, the rest of the chapter refers to people as “holy ones.” Daniel is told that “the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever” (v. 18). He sees the Ancient of Days arrive, and a judgment given in favor of “the holy ones of the Most High,” who take “possession of the kingdom” (v. 22). An evil king speaks words against the Most High, and oppresses “the holy ones of the Most High” (v. 25). But ultimately his dominion is taken away. “The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey Him” (v. 27).
Zech. 14:5. Zechariah prophesies a “day of the Lord” (v. 1) in which Yahweh becomes King over all the earth. On that day, “the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.” As with Daniel, this could be a reference to angels, saints, or both.
Matt. 13:39-41, 49-50. Jesus interprets the parable of the wheat and tares for His disciples and explains that “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels…. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness.” Then, in the parable of the net, our Lord remarks, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, and throw them into the blazing furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matt. 16:27. Jesus tells His disciples, “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each [person] according to what he has done.”
Matt. 24:30-31; 25:31. Foretelling His coming in judgment, Jesus says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky; and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other…. When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”
Mark 8:38. Jesus has summoned a crowd, along with His disciples. He admonishes them to take up their crosses and follow Him. Then He adds, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
1 Cor. 6:2-3. Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels – not to speak of things pertaining to this life?”
1 Thess. 3:13. In Paul’s prayer for the church at Thessalonica, he writes, “May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
2 Thess. 1:7-10. Writing of God’s judgment and glory, Paul notes, “This [the saints being counted worthy of God’s kingdom] will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels … in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed …”
Rev. 2:26; 3:21. Jesus assures the faithful in Thyatira and Laodicea that they will judge and rule with Him: “The victor and the one who keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations … The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne.”
Angels and saints play complementary roles in the coming Day of the Lord. But we should keep in mind that it is His day, nor ours. And we should fix our gaze on the King of kings and Lord of lords.
One final note: The phrase “The Lord comes” (Jude 14) also may be translated “The Lord came.” In this sense, we may see Enoch’s vision as so convincing that he speaks of it as if it already has come to pass.
The apostle Paul writes in much the same way about our salvation in Romans 8: “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified” (vv. 29-30).
While the saints already have been predestined, called, and justified, we have not yet been glorified; that occurs at our resurrection. Yet Paul sees God’s work of salvation from an eternal perspective. He is so certain of our future glorification that he describes it as already accomplished.
How does Enoch’s prophecy apply to false teachers?
Jude writes that Enoch’s prophecy, made centuries earlier, applies to the judgment of false teachers throughout the ages, including first-century apostates. His use of “these” (Greek houtoi) indicates that Jude’s opponents are those about whom Enoch prophesies. The Holy Spirit enables Enoch to look through the telescoping lens of time, compressing the span over which false prophets and false teachers deceive people. Ultimately, they stand before the returning Christ and are held accountable for the wreckage their destructive ministries have wrought.
Christ comes, not only to execute judgment on false teachers, but to “convict” them of their ungodly deeds. The verb translated “to convict” is elegchoin the Greek and means “to expose,” “rebuke,” or “prove guilty.” The Lord lays out His case, presenting the evidence in such a way that a guilty verdict is inescapable and indisputable.
This day of reckoning may feature several events:
- A review of God’s grace, sufficient in depth and scope to lead even the vilest sinner to repentance (Rom. 2:4)
- A recounting of the incremental steps whereby the guilty reject the truth and descend a spiraling staircase of ungodliness (Rom. 1:18-32)
- A reminder of the many lives these false teachers ruined, and the damage they did to the kingdom of God (Acts 20:29-30)
- A rebuke for passing the point of no return, having filled up their measure of sin (Matt. 23:32; 1 Thess. 2:16)
- And a rejection of their false deeds done in the name of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23)
The false teachers may protest, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?” But the Lord announces to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!” (Matt. 7:22-23). Jesus does not deny that the apostates spoke in His name, or even that they performed miraculous deeds (by the power of Christ’s name and by God’s permissive will). But He is clear in His sentence: “I never knew you!” They never had a personal relationship with Christ, and thus their deeds never were for His glory. Thus, they must depart – to the lake of fire, to outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jude is clear that false teachers are not backslidden believers who have drifted from their biblical moorings. In quoting Enoch, he establishes that they are unregenerate. He quotes the word “ungodly” several times.Their deeds are ungodly. They have performed them in ungodly ways. And they have spoken harsh words against the Lord, revealing themselves as ungodly sinners.
Enoch’s multiple use of “ungodly” (Greek asebes – “godlessness” or “impiety”) targets their sinful brashness. They refuse to hold a reverent attitude toward God. With every deceitful word, every selfish deed, every demonstration of spiritual arrogance, they store up divine wrath for the day of judgment. As the apostle Paul warns Romans who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, “But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed” (2:5).
Jude expands on Enoch’s prophecy in verse 16, focusing particularly on the sinful words spewing from their mouths. He calls them “discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires.” The word “grumblers” (Greek gongystai) is used only here in the New Testament. It’s the same term the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses to describe the murmuring of the Israelites against God (see, for example, Ex. 16:7-9; Num. 14:27).
Like the ancient people of God, whose complaints against Moses and Aaron are in fact grumblings against Yahweh, the false teachers of Jude’s day prefer a spiritual Egypt to the Promised Land. And, like the unbelieving Israelites whose corpses littered the desert, the false teachers of Jude’s day are assured of a day of reckoning, when they are separated eternally from the light and warmth of the Shekinah glory.
The word “discontented” in Jude 16 is rendered “complainers” in the KJV, “fault finders” in the NIV, and “malcontents” in the ESV. It means “to blame,” and it describes someone habitually dissatisfied. Despite being well-fed, celebrated, and preferred, the false teachers want more. They cannot find contentment because they seek to fill the spiritual void in their lives with fleshly comforts, thus revealing their true nature as unregenerate grumblers.
Jude’s depiction of false teachers, “walking according to their desires,” is similar to Peter’s words for apostates. They “follow the polluting desires of the flesh” (2 Peter 2:10); exhibit “fleshly desires and debauchery” (2:18); and “scoff, following their own lusts” (3:3). From their blackened hearts, they utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage. They make merchandise of people (2 Peter 2:3), telling them what they want to hear.
As the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
All of this illustrates what Jesus says in Matt. 15:18, “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.” By their words, false teachers unearth their spiritual death and betray the corruption of their unregenerate hearts. Rather than proclaim the truth of God’s Word and edify His people, they reveal their discontentment, arrogance, hypocrisy, lust, and self-worship. As Enoch foretells, there is nothing left for them but a day of reckoning, when the Lord comes with His holy ones to set things right.
Non-biblical Sources Cited by Paul and Jude
|Scripture Passage||Text||Non-biblical Source
|Acts 17:28a||For in Him we live and move and exist …
(Paul speaking on Mars Hill)
|Epimenides, a seventh- or sixth-century B.C. philosopher-poet. Quoted from Critecaand originally applied to Zeus; Paul applies it to God.
|Acts 17:28b||… as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.”
(Paul speaking on Mars Hill)
|Aratus, a third-century B.C. Greek poet. Quoted from Phainomena 5, in which humanity is attributed to Zeus.
|Acts 26:14||When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (emphasis added).
(Paul speaking before Agrippa)
|Aeschylus, a Greek playwright (B.C. 523-426). Quoted from the play Agamemnon 1624.|
|1 Cor. 15:33||Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”||Menander (B.C. 342-291). Quoted from the play Thais. Also quoted from Euripides’ (B.C. 480-406) play Aiolos.
|2 Tim. 3:8||Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith.
|Ancient Jewish traditions (Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, Qumran scrolls, and rabbinic writings) identify these magicians by name, although the Old Testament does not.
|Titus 1:12||One of their very own prophets said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.
|Epimenides, a sixth-century B.C. Cretan poet. The lie to which he refers is the claim that Zeus is mortal, which evidently is believed on Crete.
|Jude 14-15||And Enoch, in the seventh [generation] from Adam, prophesied about them:
Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones
to execute judgment on all,
and to convict them
of all their ungodly deeds
that they have done
in an ungodly way,
and of all the harsh things
have said against Him.
|Book of Enoch 1:9 (also known as 1 Enoch 1:9).|
Next: Merely Natural: Scoffers Without The Spirit