Opinion: Jude’s warnings come true

As apostasy deepens, God will purify the church and call a faithful remnant

Sep 28, 2015 by

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“Read the Book of Jude.” That was the message I received nearly nine months ago in a prophetic dream about Mennonite Church Canada’s first same-sex wedding. I have been focused in study and prayer concerning this tiny book ever since. I have discovered Jude is a stunning rebuke from Jesus to Mennonites compromising on the same-sex issue.

I do not consider myself a prophet. In fact, most of my life I have been skeptical of much of the charismatic movement. Yet, I have no doubt that God, by his grace and mercy, has been revealing prophetic messages to me in dreams.

This is what I believe the Lord is saying through Jude:

The Lord is calling upon the faithful remnant within the Mennonite world to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Why? Because “certain people have crept in unnoticed” among the church, those “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

It is eerie to read articles that build an argument for same-sex marriage upon “God’s grace.” For in Scripture we clearly read that the days prior to Jesus’ return will be characterized by a mass deception within the church by those who twist God’s grace into a license for immorality.

Shipwreck of faith

Jude graphically illustrates the downward spiral of these “hidden reefs” who shipwreck others’ faith. Their apostasy accelerates over time, beginning with stubborn rejection of godly instruction (“the way of Cain”), producing a headlong rush into “Balaam’s error” (teaching people to embrace sexual immorality) and concluding in the “rebellion of Korah” — a direct challenge to God’s authority, which seals their destruction.

I believe God is showing us that those trying to normalize homosexuality in the Mennonite world are, in fact, these “waterless clouds, swept along by winds.” As Mennonite Church USA found out at its Kansas City convention, their demands for affirmation are becoming increasingly militant and defiant as their apostasy deepens, just as Jude prophesied.

In another dream I was shown a future denominational gathering where Mennonites were poised to vote in favor of same-sex marriage. In that dream the Lord used broken arrows as a powerful symbol of what awaits those who support this decision. This is an especially sober warning to Mennonite leaders, who should consider themselves doubly warned.

Meanwhile, many Mennonites seem confident that the same-sex controversy will eventually fade away and that the church only needs to learn to live with disagreement. With all due respect, those who say such things cannot possibly be hearing from God on this issue because the Holy Spirit is speaking loudly, clearly and urgently in the opposite direction.

I realize many will remain unconvinced and even mock what I say. Jude foretold their reactions, too (see verses 18-19).

Many Mennonites in the Global North have lost a proper fear of the Lord. As a result, we, like so many churches in our culture, feel we can be wedded to the world without consequence and then proclaim an impotent gospel of distorted grace that knows nothing of the power of God to overcome sin and live a life of holiness.

Collapse and awakening

The good news, however, is that the Lord has also been revealing to me glimpses of what lies ahead for those who remain faithful. I believe Jesus will soon purify Mennonite churches, preparing for himself a remnant of spiritual warriors to participate in the greatest Holy Spirit outpouring the global church has seen.

This awakening will come amid global economic collapse, which even now is set to begin. And just as many Christians already demonstrate overseas, this remnant will courageously love enemies and forsake violence in the face of persecution. In other words, Jesus is making ready a real peace church.

The Lord is pressing each of us to decide: Do we want his path? Or do we want compromise with the world? The middle ground of the lukewarm church is fast disappearing. Jesus’ ultimatum to the sleepy Laodicean church is echoed in Jude with the chilling reminder that Jesus “who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

I plead with us to never forget that Jesus’ great love necessitates his hatred of injustice, sin and unbelief. Do not be deceived: God’s grace will not cover willful sin.

The time to decide is upon us. We have been appointed for this task. Will you rise up to become a spiritual arrow in the Lord’s quiver or be numbered among the Mennonite “broken arrows” whom Jesus will reject? In this critical hour, those are your only options.

Steve Hoeppner is a minister within Mennonite Church Canada and a former prison chaplain.

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  • Steven Stubble

    Thank you Steve for a clear and timely call for renewal! I thought I knew the book of Jude, but as I read your article the lights were going on all over and I realized, ” he’s absolutely right; it’s all right there in front of our eyes!” I’m going to read Jude again with this in mind. It’s good to know there are still ministers of the Word within the Mennonite Church who fear God more than they fear the disdain of public opinion. Stand firm, despite the contempt which many will now heap on you. May the Lord bless your ministry.

  • Michael Pahl

    It is unfortunate that MWR has published this. We need to be wary of people claiming direct access to God’s mind and then saying that those who disagree are under God’s judgment. We as Mennonites should know this: we have examples in our history of people making these kinds of claims (“This Scripture text was prophesying us right now, and the end is near!”) with the end result being disastrous for all involved. Think John of Leiden and Claas Epp, Jr.

    The author’s interpretation of Jude is also highly suspect. Jude is speaking of very specific circumstances in his day, and while he does indeed focus on sexual immorality, he simply does not have homosexuality in view (the phrase “they pursued strange flesh” in v. 7 is referring to non-human flesh, i.e. angelic). Jude does have relevance for us today: we need to stand against all forms of sexual violence, exploitation, degradation, infidelity, and promiscuity, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and be wary of those who may try to promote these harmful sins. But Jude is not some kind of “prophecy” that finds fulfillment today.

    This article contributes nothing of value to the important conversation on same-sex marriage going on among us today. Indeed, I fear this article may lead people even further from the way of Jesus, further from “the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.”

    • Steven Stubble

      Michael, you’re right that Jude doesnt necessarily fill some specific end-times prophecy. it serves as a warning for all church Ages. Jude’s main theme however is not standing against sexual immorality per say, but that the call for allowing this immoraity will come from within the church itself (instead of secular society) .Further, it will be excused by the “grace of God” , which as Steve H. correctly states, is a common thread among LBGT apologists. The author’s reminder that “the middle ground…is fast disappearing” is as accurrate a characterization of the Mennonite Church as I have read in a while — so how can you say it contributes “nothing of value” to the same-sex conversation? This conversation still has two sides, unpleasant though that may be to many people.

      • Michael Pahl

        I agree with at least some of what you have said. The North American church long ago forfeited the right to speak with moral authority on marriage and sexual immorality, and “God’s grace” has long been used as an excuse for immorality of all kinds. However, there are much better ways to say those things, much more exegetically and theologically and pastorally and ecclesially responsible ways to say those things, than was said in this article. And there is no indication that Jude has homosexuality even in view, let alone committed, caring, same-sex relationships. He is speaking of an utter lack of sexual self-control, being swept away by sexual lusts – a *human* sin, neither specifically heterosexual nor homosexual. I would urge you, for Jesus’ sake, for the sake of the gospel, to look to other guides than this article on the matter of same-sex marriage. There are better guides out there, both from the “traditional” and the “affirming” sides.

        • Brian Arbuckle

          So which “better guide” would you prefer Michael Pahl? One from the “traditional” or “affirming” side.

          • Michael Pahl

            I said “better guides,” plural, and from both sides. Here are some:

            Preston Sprinkle, People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue (Zondervan, 2015). Coming out soon, sure to be the best book out there from the traditional perspective.

            James V. Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Eerdmans, 2013). The best book available from the affirming perspective.

            Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2010). An autobiographical, easy-to-read introduction to the traditional view, but great reflections on Christian spirituality regardless of one’s perspective.

            Justin Lee, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate (Jericho, 2013). An autobiographical, easy-to-read introduction to the affirming view.

            Preston Sprinkle’s blog on “homosexuality”: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/category/homosexuality/ Good from traditional perspective.

            David Gushee’s blog posts on the matter, in several parts starting here: https://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/28904-starting-a-conversation-the-lgbt-issue-part-1 Good from affirming perspective, collected and revised in the book Changing Our Mind.

          • Brian Arbuckle

            You have failed to answer my question! Not that you must.

        • Steven Stubble

          It’s true that Hoeppner could have improved his delivery: if he left out the dream sequence, nothing would be lost from an article on the book of Jude. But i suspect it’s not just his homiletics youre taking issue with — to dismiss the moral authority of the N American church on sexuality and marriage is certainly a bold stroke (I wonder what you would do with the churches of S America, Africa and Asia?) . With respect, please keep in mind that to reject one instance of authority can only be done after accepting another in its place. And the authority which “affirming” factions have placed at the Head of the Church is called “secular humanism” (or one of its many iterations) . Mr. Arbuckle (see above) has hit the nail on the head!

          • Michael Pahl

            You’ve misunderstood what I said. When I said that “The North American church long ago forfeited the right to speak with moral authority on marriage and sexual immorality,” I was agreeing with the idea behind your statement that “the call for allowing this immoraity will come from within the church itself.” That’s why I prefaced my comment with “I agree with at least some of what you have said.”

            The point of my comment was that the North American church began capitulating to non-Christian ways of thinking about sex and marriage long ago. We are not some “pure church” that is only now being sullied. Divorce, adultery, pornography, and more are as rampant among North American Christians as they are among non-Christians. And many of us have bought into an un-Christian dualistic view of the world that has warped our perspective on sex. It’s no wonder, then, that no one listens to the church on sexuality – and we have warrant ourselves as Christians to be suspicious of “Christian” views of sexuality.

          • Steven Stubble

            Quite true that problems with sexuality in the church have been around for a while — the Corinthian church is a good example. I dont think the Churchs tolerance of sins in the past should ultimately decide which behaviours it condones in the future, but thanks for the clarification, I had misconstrued some of what you were getting at. I would however, be interested (as Mr Arbuckle seems to be) in where you stand personally. . You seem to be examining both sides, but I think Mr Hoeppners characterization of the middle ground as “fast disappearing” is an accurate one.

    • Kurt Horst

      As I read Jude again I rediscovered the words “going after” (KJV), “pursued” (NRSV), in Jude 7. These translate a combination of Greek words that literally are: “to go away or depart to things that are from behind in pursuit of other flesh.” Perhaps too visually descriptive for general translation (like Paul’s reference to castration – Gal. 5:12). There is very little evidence for saying that [sarx – flesh] speaks of non-human (angelic) flesh. To argue backward to claim than it is talking about angels because the persons who came to Sodom and Gomorrah were angels is not so clear either since “angels” could just as well be translated “messengers” and there is little evidence that the towns people saw them as angels but only as visitors. Sodom and Gomorrah were certainly lacking in hospitality, who wouldn’t understand sexual abuse of visitors as inhospitable, but I am inclined to think both/and rather than either/or when I encounter this text. While other texts may not connect the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah with sexual sin Jude certainly does.Yet it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for those who failed to recognize and show hospitality to the messengers sent by Jesus (Matthew 10:15).

      • Charlie Kraybill

        Angels? Sodom and Gomorrah? Messengers sent by Jesus before Jesus was born? All fiction. From a 25-verse “book” that should have never made it into the canon. We have no idea who wrote “Jude.” Why is it regarded as “God’s word” when it so clearly is not? To study it and dissect it in this way is a massive waste of time. When it comes to a conflict in knowledge between modern medical science and the ancient biblical texts, who are you gonna believe? I don’t know about you, but as for me and my house we will put our trust in science.

        • Steven Stubble

          With respect Mr. Kraybill: why stop there? Medical science will, I’m sure, give you more modern insights into e.g. the Resurrection, and for that matter, the outdated notion that a sky deity (of any kind) really exists to begin with. Now thats what I call a conflict between modern medical science and biblical texts. And whom are you going to believe? Keep in mind, “science” never comes alone — it is always a tool in somebodys hand.

        • Loren James

          what conflict?

  • Daniel Hoopert

    Keep up the good study, Steve (H). You might want to further your study by looking at 2 Peter. Jude may have had access to Peter’s (2nd) letter, and may have filled out some things that Peter stated. A passage similar to Jude 7 (As Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to gross immorality and followed after strange flesh) is 2 Peter 2:10 (“especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion” (ESV)). Jude fills out more specifically what Peter wrote about defiling passion: Jude includes those who pursue “other flesh.” Henry Alford refers to this “other flesh” as “than that appointed by God for the fulfillment of natural desire.” Genesis 19:5 indicates, in my opinion, that the men trying to break down Lot’s door had homosexual intentions in mind.

    • J.M. Branum

      Let me get this straight…

      Lot was willing to let his daughters be raped for the sake of preserving his personal honor as the protectors of his guests and yet was saved by the angels sent by God to protect his family???

      Seriously…do you actually believe this?

      Why in the world would we take this particular text as a useful and modern guide for sexual ethics in our point in time? Today I would hope that we all could agree that any kind of rape, including the rape of the guests of Lot by then men of the city as well as the proposed rape of Lot’s daughters (which were going to be voluntarily given to the men of the city by THEIR OWN FATHER). Yet this text seems to indicate that one kind of raping is ok (when a father hands off their daughters to be abused) while the other kind (the kindnapping and raping of honored guests is wrong). The literalistic read of the Bible is wrong on this point.

      • Brian Arbuckle

        Who is advocating for rape on the basis of this passage? Who is advocating for rape on the basis of any passage of Scripture? Who is holding up Lot as the standard for Christian sexual ethics?

  • Jennifer Gorman

    Jesus first and foremost wanted us to live lives of love and service, of mercy, of welcome., of being salt and light to everyone around us, everyone, not stopping to judge who He would want to welcome, because He welcomes all of us. He did not speak of homosexuality, and if He had thought it was important He would have. Yes, He knew it existed, the Gospel of John says he knew the hearts of all men. The verses in which Paul is said to mention homosexuality are not as cut and dry as some people think. The word he used is not actually able to be directly translated into English as homosexuality and what he is talking about modern Biblical historians feel were Roman customs of sexually abusing young male slaves, rape, and forcing themselves onto enemy combatants they bested in battle, also rape. The entire section in Romans is about losing yourself to sexual lusts of any sort, that can take a person away from a devotion to following Jesus. Homosexual and bisexual people like both of my adult children can be and, in their case are, deeply devoted followers of Christ and members of the Mennonite church, and devoted to their own and their future partners sexual purity and to saving themselves for marriage. They are also both committed to making the future of the Mennonite church strong in following Jesus, in loving others, in building others up, in worship, in fellowship with all of the people who come to us seeking, sharing with them the joy and love and strength that has been taught to them since birth at our 300 plus year old congregation here in Pennsylvania in the States, Salford. They both are examples of what Jesus meant to be salt and light, to love the world the way He loved us, openly, sacrificially, without reservation. And they leave judgement of others to Him, like He asked. They are the future of our church.

    • Loren James

      Yes the Apostle Paul was certainly speaking of homosexuality, read Romans chpt.1 , you need to read the whole counsel of God and stop interpreting in light of our fallen culture.

  • Jeff Linthicum

    I believe this is a prophetic word to the Mennonite church! And before people get worked up read our confession ” The Spirit of God is not silent in the present. However, this new revelation will not contradict what we know of Christ’s way in Scripture (John 14:26). So we can open ourselves to revelation and prophecy”

  • Berry Friesen

    I too appreciate Hoeppner’s essay, not in all of its particulars, but for drawing our attention to Jude and for taking seriously the decisions we must make within the church about what we teach regarding human sexuality. Within both the liberal and the evangelical wings of the Mennonite church (Canadian and US versions), there is a strong tendency to de-historicize salvation. Or to say it another way, both wings claim that “in God” (i.e., if we “get right with God”), it all will turn out the same in the end.

    In “If Not Empire, What?” John K. Stoner and I read Jude to stoutly oppose that kind of thinking by insisting (along with Jewish Bible) that the salvation of YHWH happens within human history. We err when we disdain, become impatient with, or despair of the political dimension of being a human community of faith. The salvation of YHWH is inherently political because it is inherently historical.

    Thus, we draw attention to Jude’s final admonition in verse 22, which says: “Have mercy on some who are wavering, save others by snatching them out of the fire, and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.”

  • Brian Arbuckle

    As I read this good word from Steve I thought of the rich man in hades who asked Abraham to send warning to his yet living brothers in hope that at least they might avoid the agony he was experiencing. In response to this request Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16) For decades the voices of prophets have been speaking to the Mennonite Church and its leadership. For the most part these voices have been ignored or rejected in the same spirit of those words uttered to Eve, “has God said?” But God has said and his word has been there as a constant witness to his truth and warning to all who would depart from it. Sadly Mennonite Church USA is utterly infected with the notion that we have no certain word from God. The crisis is one of authority. Consider these words of Os Guinness. “The greatest crisis now facing the church in the West today is the crisis of authority caused by the church’s capitulation to the pressures of the sexual revolution, and in particular to the bullying agenda of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer coalition.” (Fool’s Talk) Where would Mennonite Church USA be today if it would have had leaders who were truly Christian, truly Anabaptist, certainly convinced of “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” and willing to “contend earnestly” and stand up to the bullies. Instead there has been appeasement, compromise, adaptation, and assimilation and thus the denomination is “in” and “of” the world. Yes, the Word of God has been there all along. The prophetic voices have been there all along and I thank Steve for his good word. But it is the kissing Judases who have won the day. It is their word that is preferred. “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” (Ezekiel 37)

  • Forest Hazel

    “He did not speak of homosexuality, and if He had thought it was important He would have.” What did Jesus speak of regarding marriage? “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?(Matthew 19: 4-5) I believe that Jesus, as well as the rest of the Jews, saw homosexuality as so unnatural, and such a perversion of God’s law, that He did not need to mention it. It went without saying. In any case, we know that Jesus explicitly stated “… a MAN shall… be joined to his WIFE” You can spin it any way you want, but the totality of scripture is clear that homosexuality is an abomination before God. Any believer who is part of a church that celebrates and embraces homosexuality as normal should examine their situation prayerfully in accordance with scripture.

  • J.M. Branum

    I appreciate that MWR provides a diverse range of voices and perspectives but I’m disappointed that you ran this particular op-ed. Describing those who advocate for inclusion as being “broken arrows” is at best insulting and at worst threatening. This kind of rhetoric has been used around the world to justify violence against homosexual people.

    • Brian Arbuckle

      “Describing those who advocate for inclusion as being “broken arrows” is at best insulting and at worst threatening.” This kind of rhetoric is commonly used to malign those who advocate for the Biblical position on sexuality. The intent, of course, is to silence and defame and thereby end any serious conversation on the topic. Who among those who advocate for the Biblical position are advocating for violence against those who have disordered sexual desires? Jude was not overly concerned with the sensitivities of false teachers. In that he has set a good example for those who advocate for the truth of Scripture.

  • Loren James

    With respect to all of the born again Christians in the MCU, I find it extremely difficult to understand how so many people reject the clear teachings of God’s Words. This goes much further then same sex marriage which is only a symptom. People today do not seem to respect what the Bible says. I truly believe the MCU is becoming an “Apostate” (falling away from truth) denomination like several other denominations today, and I am not trying to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings but people used to believe the Bible was truth, Jesus said “Thy Word is truth” John 17:17. Does truth matter today? What is our basis for truth?
    One of the problems is the lack of Creeds based on the scriptures, there is nothing to fall back on. There is too much allegorical teaching and humanistic philosophy has entered the church.
    Another problem is that there are so many different Bible versions today with so many differences,
    I believe that God has preserved His Word through the Reformers and the line of the Authorized Version, KJV and NKJV because there was a chain of custody, people knew where the manuscripts came from. There was also providence, God’s workings through people and circumstances.
    There is much evidence that the Roman Catholic church wanted a different bible and that the Codex Sinaiticus (what modern scholars say is oldest and best) is a fraud, it was darkened, is full of mistakes and was kept from public view for over a century. Almost all newer versions are heavily influenced by the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus and the Wescot and Hort text.
    Selling Bibles is big business, a billion dollar industry, many seminary’s have become very liberal, teaching students to doubt the authority of the bible. Many Pastor’s today only preach feel good messages and are careful not to offend anyone, the power of the gospel is missing and there is a view that all religions have the same God and that if you are a good person you will go to heaven. Are these teachings in the Bible? Jesus said you must be born again, Jesus is both God and Man, He died on the cross for our sin’s as a substitute for us. That’s what love is!
    Romans 10:9 say’s “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved” That’s how I got saved!!!

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