Once upon a time, there lived a people called the Sodomites in a land called Sodom who committed acts later referred to as sodomy. The outcry against Sodom was so great and their sins so grievous that God sent messengers to decide whether or not Sodom should be destroyed (Genesis 18:20-21). When the messengers were almost raped by the Sodomites, they decided that destruction was the only option. So the Lord rained down fire from heaven (Gen 19:24) and Sodom was completely destroyed except for a remnant from the family of Abraham. The remnant could see the smoke of Sodom’s burning, rising from the ashes for days to come (Gen 19:28).
But this was not the end of Sodom’s story. This was only the beginning.
Many moons later, a mysterious young man who liked to tell stories, became a similar messenger to the Jewish people – the descendants of the remnant of Abraham. His name was Jesus. He stood on a mountain overlooking the land of his people and said:
“Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in ashes. (Matt 11:21)
“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for you.” (Matt 11:23-24)
Jesus said there was a judgement day coming. He inferred that Sodomy paled in comparison to the Jewish lack of faith! He refered to a place that Christians have since labelled hell, and said that Capernaum will go to hell and that their experience will be worse than that of the Sodomites! How can one experience of hell differ from another? And why did Jesus mention repenting in ashes?
Not long after the mysterious messenger resurrected from the dead (just as the Sodomites will surely do if they are to face further judgement) another man by the name of Jude wrote this:
“In a similar way, Sodom and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)
The word “eternal” is a mistranslation of the word “eonios” which means “pertaining to the afterlife” and is of unknown duration. We still use the word eon today to mean “age.” So Jude is talking about the age of fire which occurs in the afterlife.
Sodom is our example of hellfire! Whatever happens to the Sodomites happens to everyone who goes into hellfire after judgement day. It is said to be more difficult for Capernaum and less difficult for Tyre and Sidon who “would have repented in ashes.”
The question is: what happened to the Sodomites after they were destroyed by fire? They were spoken of in the book of Genesis, in the words of Jesus through Matthew and in the writings of Jude. Did anyone else have anything to say about the Sodomites? Yes! The prophet Ezekiel refers to the Sodomites as well in Ezekiel chapter 16.
16:49 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
16:50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.
16:51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done.
16:52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
[Once again the Jews are told their actions are worse than sodomy!]
16:53 However I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them!
16:60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth and I will establish and everlasting covenant with you.
What happened to Sodom after the fire? God restored the Sodomites!
What happened to Capernaum who was thrown into hellfire? God established an everlasting covenant with them and brought them back!
What is the result of judgement day and hellfire? People repenting in ashes!
Just as ashes come from fire, so repentance follows after judgement!
Not convinced? Take a look at what Zephaniah has to say about fire:
1:18 “In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth” That sounds pretty final right? Just like Sodom died in fire and they were completely dead.
3:8-9 “The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder.”
Fire is a purifying agent and it does not fail to do its job. Hellfire is the Refiner’s fire. It’s the fire of God’s love burning away our sodomy and purifying us.
The Good-News-Gospel of Sodom is that judgement and hellfire result in the ashes of repentance and no one (not even the Pharisees of Capernaum) will be able to resist forever.
Song of Songs 8:6-7
For love is as strong as death
Its jealousy as enduring as unyielding as the grave
It burns like blazing fire
Like a mighty flame
Many waters cannot quench love
Rivers cannot sweep it away
If one were to give all the wealthy of one’s house for love
It would be utterly scorned.