Understanding the Present State of the Ungodly

We must recognize that Christ is our only refuge from not only future judgment but also present judgment.

“It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” (Jude 14-15 ESV)

To discharge the mission given by Christ to his people, we must understand the state of those apart from Christ—not only their eternal destiny but also their present state.

Before addressing this, however, we must first note that Jude 14-15 is a difficult passage. Jude’s reference to Enoch as his source has produced no small amount of discussion among readers and scholars. Is Jude affirming the Book of Enoch as inspired? Or does his reference cast doubt on the canonicity of Jude’s own epistle?

Neither. Similarly to Jude’s reference to The Assumption of Moses earlier in his letter, such references should neither cause us to attribute inspiration to the referenced source nor cause us to doubt the inspiration of Jude. Rather, Jude is communicating to his audience in a way that they will understand by drawing on sources with which they are familiar.

Jude’s focus is on the content of the quotation, not the attribution. One may ask, “Why cite Enoch when many of the canonical prophets issued similar warnings?” Yet by appealing to Enoch (“the seventh from Adam”), Jude may be emphasizing the sheer antiquity of God’s judgment. Divine justice is not a new development in redemptive history but reaches back to the beginning—a fact to which Enoch’s words attest.

But another striking element of this text is the present way God’s judgment is meted out. “Behold, the Lord comes” communicates a present reality, not a mere future prospect. God has declared from long ago the judgment of wicked and has exercised that judgment throughout redemptive history, ultimately pointing to the final end of the wicked at the return of Christ. Yet, lest anyone think they can escape judgment in the present, Jude makes clear that judgment is currently being executed on the wicked.

Another point worth noting is the repeated use of “all” and “ungodly”. Each word appears four times in this quotation, indicating the full condemnation of both ungodly actions and the ungodly persons from whom those actions flow.

The objects of judgment are those who have acted and spoken against God—that is those who have rebelled against God’s authority in blatant disobedience and those who have blasphemed his name. As the author of Hebrews says, “[N]o creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (4:13). None of the wicked will be able to hide their sins from the eye of the Lord nor escape full punishment for each of those sins. There is free and full forgiveness for all who repent (1 John 1:9), but for those who remain unrepentant, their sins will incur judgment.

This present reality of judgment should encourage our evangelism. There is no time to put off important matters until later because God’s just wrath is being dispensed in the present.

J.C. Ryle said, “Surely none are so crazy as those who are content to live unprepared to die.” Yet the gospel is to pierce into this very state—a baffling state of contentment in condemnation. When we preach the gospel to unbelievers, we preach to those who are currently under God’s judgment. The most hateful thing we can do is to leave them in such a spiritually unaffected condition without the hope of Christ.

On our own, we can do nothing to escape this judgment, but we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1), who stands ready to save all who come to him by faith (John 6:37).


Heavenly Father,

Grant that the reality of your judgment would spur us to make our own calling and election sure, and strengthen us to bring the good news to others.

In your Son’s name, amen.

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray that you would be aware of the reality of present judgment and press all the more into Christ in faith.
  • Pray for those who are content in their condition without Christ, that they would be awakened to the peril of such a condition.
  • Pray for the hastening of Christ’s return to gather all his elect to himself.
Caleb Gorton

Caleb Gorton serves as Communications Associate at ABWE and is a graduate of Reformation Bible College.