Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 28, 2019
The Saints in Jude 14
I heard a preacher who believes that the “saints” here in Jude’s book are those in paradise/Abraham’s bosom (Lk 16:19, Rev 6:9-11) whom the Lord is going to come with at His second advent.
In Jude verse 14, Jude quoted the prophet Enoch, and says, “Behold, the Lord is cometh with ten thousands of His saints.” My question is who are the “saints” that are used here. Was he referring to angels in heaven or the earthly human saints who have lived and died - Ps 116:15? What does the word of God say?
The Background for the Word “Saints”
Perhaps, I should state from the beginning that we can’t be certain who is represented in the term “saints” in Jude 14, but we have a good hunch that it includes both angels and God’s people. There is support for both of these groups, though Enoch probably could not see the two groups.
The translation using “saints” typically refers to God’s people, but the Bible versions use “holy ones” to translate when referring to angels. The word on the original languages is the same offshoot of holy ones. Because Hebrew and Greek words for “saint” is the same as “holy ones,” translators take the freedom to use “holy ones” when referring to angels and “saints” when referring to God’s people.
We can see this in numerous translations that believe Jude refers to angels by those versions using “holy ones.” (ASV, AMP, CSB, CJB, EHV,NASB, NIV …). The Greek word doesn’t help us distinguish which is the best translation. Here are some versions translated using saints (KJ21, BRG, DRA,GNV, NKJV….). Some even translate it to mean holy angels (ERV, CEV) or “myriads” (DLBT).
Another Angle — Contextual
In the same chapter, merely 11 verses from each other, Jude uses the same Greek word to speak of the saints.
“…I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
Some insist on Jude referring to God’s ones (saints) due to his usage here in Jude 4, which is more clearly referring to believers. The only reason maybe not to accept the clearer (saints) to translate Jude 14 is that the line is lifted from another source—quoted from another source.
Another Angle — Old Testament Usage
As we look at the following verses, please remember that the word for saints is literally “holy ones.” The New Testament is exactly the same situation that we find in the Old Testament.
This first verse, similar to Jude 14 from Deuteronomy mentions ten thousand (myriad) holy ones.
He said, “The Lord came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them” (Deut 33:2).
Moses’ words, from His final prophetic blessing, might be partially derived from Enoch’s prophecy as the image is similar, but it could just as well be a similar vision from God depicting the future. In this case, “holy ones” seems to depict angels more clearly.
But before we draw our Old Testament conclusion too quickly, we have other verses, like Daniel’s, that has the same word (holy ones) refer to God’s saints.
“But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (Daniel 7:18).
“Saints” here in Daniel refers to receiving the kingdom which refers to God’s people rather than the angels.
In summary, then, even in the Old Testament, there is the crossing of terms, using the same Hebrew word to describe angels and God’s people (saints).
Another Angle — Theological Meaning
But before we conclude, we should note there is also a theological perspective regarding judgment. I don’t think any conservative biblical commentator would deny the fact that angels will accompany God in the final judgment, but let me provide a few such verses.
“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Mat 13:41).
“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous” (Mat 13:49).
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
It is clear God’s angels will accompany Jesus upon His return for judgment. But is it not true that God’s people, the saints, will equally judge the wicked and join in God’s judgment of the world? Not only do we have a general sense of joint work with God as we sit on Jesus’ throne (Eph 2:6), but clear verses stating we, God’s people, will judge the world.
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?” (1 Cor 6:2)
And perhaps, the reason the saints come with Jesus upon His return is to have them join Him to judge—but this is not clear from these verses but a deduction.
“So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thess 3:13).
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:15).
What did Enoch see in His vision? Could he really distinguish between angels and God’s redeemed among the myriads, literally ten thousand times ten thousand? Certainly, we theologically have reason to understand that both groups are included in the final judgment and therefore conclude Jude 14 refers to both groups. But it is quite possible that Enoch only meant angels—especially the way he speaks of angels, good and bad, through the book. There is, I believe, sufficient evidence to exclude interpretations that assume Jude 14 only refers to God’s people as we know angels will accompany God on the Judgment Day. Both angels and God’s people will join God in this judgment, but it is doubtful that Enoch saw this, probably only considering the angels at that point in redemptive history.
Key words: saints, judgment, Jude 14, interpretation, angels