A Future for ANCIENT SODOM?
The people of the ancient city of Sodom were so wicked that the entire city was destroyed. The book of Genesis records that fact-but that is only part of the story.
By Michael Morrison
No one has found the ruins of the ancient city of Sodom. No one knows
Whether there is anything left to find.
The city, according to preserved accounts, was near the southern end of the Dead Sea, perhaps near the hill that has the Arabic name Jebel Usdum, which means "mountain of Sodom."
Some think the city is now under the salty waters of the Dead Sea. That might be an appropriate place, for Sodom is dead. That is certain!
Why was Sodom destroyed?
Many people have assumed that Sodom was destroyed solely because it was filled with sexual immorality. It is, perhaps, a logical assumption-if the only part of the story they've read is the Genesis account. But the Bible has much more to say about Sodom than that.
Let's start, not with the Genesis account, but with a conclusion found in a book written nearly 1,000 years later. The prophet Ezekiel compared the people of Jerusalem with the people of Sodom: "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away" (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
God, through Ezekiel, tells us why Sodom was destroyed. Sexual immorality isn't mentioned explicitly here. Let's now look at the account in Genesis for the explicit abomination of the Sodomites.
The story begins when God and two angels appeared to Abraham. Abraham had an unusually close relationship with God, and was called God's friend (James 2:23). On this occasion God told Abraham and his wife Sarah that they, though old, would have a son (Genesis 18:9-14).
Then God shared with Abraham another reason He and the angels were in the area: "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me" (verses 20-21).
Sodom's reputation had gotten so bad that God Himself came down on a fact-finding mission.
Abraham, perhaps concerned for his nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom, bargained with God until God agreed to spare the city if only 10 righteous people could be found there (verses 24-32).
Then two angels, who appeared as men, went into Sodom and were met by Lot, who insisted that they spend the night in his house.
"Before they lay down, the men of ... Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, `Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally' " (Genesis 19:4-5).
The men were so intent on immorality that, even though the angels blinded them, they still tried to find the door (verse 11).
The angels warned Lot to take his family and leave the city. His sons-in-law refused to leave, and even Lot was so reluctant that the angels had to force him, his wife and two daughters to go (verses 12-16).
In perhaps the worst punishment any city has ever been given, God destroyed Sodom completely (verses 24-25).
A completely corrupt society!
Were Sodom and Gomorrah the worst cities in history? Certainly not! Immorality, including homosexuality, was common in other cities of the ancient world, yet God didn't destroy them. Ezekiel even told the people of ancient Jerusalem that they were worse than Sodom (Ezekiel 16:46-52).
Sexual immorality was only one aspect of Sodom's sins. Foremost among those sins was the attitude of pride, of complete rejection of the Creator's guidelines, of complete tolerance of, even insistence for, all varieties of moral experimentation.
The complete corruption of Sodom's society had affected both young and old, rich and poor, from every quarter of the city. No one thought it wrong to be lazy or gluttonous; no one cared about the poor and needy; no one thought anything or any behavior "wrong" (verses 49-50).
Sodom's sins sound similar to parts of the Western world today. But this article is not written to repeat what Ezekiel knew long ago. This article is to tell the rest of the story-the future of the ancient Sodomites.
Why Jesus forewarned cities of His day
Jesus spent a large part of His ministry in Galilee, a region north of Jerusalem. He went about all the cities and villages, teaching and preaching and healing every sickness among the people (Matthew 9:35).
The people wanted to be healed, but most of them didn't want to repent; they didn't want to change the way they were living. Instead of changing their life-style, they criticized Jesus (Matthew 11:16-19).
So Jesus compared them with some non-Jewish cities-first some Phoenician cities, then Sodom: "Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: `Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago ... it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you' " (verses 20-22).
The Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon did not repent of their idolatry. If God had sent Jesus to them in earlier ages, they would have repented. Jesus knew what would have prompted them to repent, yet God had not done it.
Why? Wasn't God trying to save them? Apparently not! God didn't even send a prophet to warn them. Instead, He allowed Tyre and Sidon to be punished by conquering armies.
And what about Sodom? Jesus gave another comparison: "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment than for you" (verses 23-24).
If Jesus had performed miracles in Sodom, the city would not have been destroyed. Jesus implied that the people would have repented. They would have realized the folly of thinking they could decide for themselves what was right and wrong.
But it didn't happen. God wasn't, at that time, trying to save them. That is the clear implication of Jesus' comments.
Is God fair? Most certainly! God knows that the people of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom (and most everyone else, for that matter) have not yet been given an opportunity to really understand what He wants of them. They were not told to repent or to change their life-style. But they will be told!
Ancient Sodom has a future
Jesus referred to a "day of judgment" that the people of Sodom would be in. The people of Tyre and Sidon would also be there, and the people Jesus spoke to, and the people of ancient Nineveh and the queen of the South (Matthew 12:41-42).
Jesus gave a few examples of various peoples of various ages -representative of all mankind-all of whom will "rise up in the judgment." Just as surely as all have died, all will again be made alive (I Corinthians 15:22). Everyone will be brought back to life in a resurrection from the dead.
"But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits [the first to be resurrected], afterward those who are Christ's [faithful Christians] at His coming [when He returns to earth]" (I Corinthians 15:23).
More than one resurrection
Revelation 20:4 mentions a "first" resurrection. Those who are resurrected when Christ returns-those who are Christ's will rule with Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 3:21, 20:4). During this 1,000 years of righteous rule, the good results of living in harmony with God's laws will be made obvious.
Revelation 20:5 also tells us that there will be another resurrection: "But the rest of the dead [this includes the people of Sodom] did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:5). So the ancient people of Sodom will live again-in a resurrection at the end of the Millennium!
The prophet Ezekiel tells us more about this resurrection. Although his vision was about the ancient Israelites, it also applies to the people of Sodom, for they will all rise in the same resurrection to judgment, said Jesus.
God states: "I will ... cause you to come up from your graves ... I will cause breath to enter into you ... I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with shall live" (Ezekiel 37:12, 5-6). This is a resurrection to mortal life. The people are made-a second time-of flesh and blood. They are physical, not spiritual.
And what happens then? "Then you shall know that I am the Lord" (verses 6, 13). "1 will put My Spirit in you" (verse 14). They did not have God's spirit before; they did not have an opportunity for salvation. But in this resurrection, they will be given God's spirit, taught about God and allowed, for the first time, to know the Lord.
Their first chance for salvation
Revelation 20:12 tells us more: The apostle John, in vision, saw “the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books."
The people of Sodom will be in this judgment. And by what standard will they be judged?
By the "books" or, as the original Greek says, biblia-the same word we use to describe the Bible. God will judge them the same way He judges His people today: by evaluating how well they live by His instructions (I Peter 4:17).
Some people have assumed that this judgment consists of merely reviewing the peoples' sins and pronouncing a punishment. But "judgment," as used in the Bible, is actually a process, not just the conclusion. God's people today are being judged that they might avoid punishment (I Corinthians 11:32).
God is merciful, always willing to forgive if people repent. The ancient peoples, since they didn't understand who God is or what He wants never had a chance to repent. So they will be given an opportunity.
That can't be done instantly. It takes time. For example, Jesus said the queen of the South would "condemn" the people of His generation (Matthew 12:42). To be able to do that, she must first learn about what is written in the "books." She'll need time to learn about God's laws and His mercy, time to learn what the ancient peoples did and time for her to come to a conclusion. She, by understanding, will then be able to repent; indeed, Jesus implied that she would. She will be forgiven, and given her chance for salvation.
Like the queen of the South, everyone in this resurrection will be given time-time to learn God's way, and time to show whether they will choose to live God's way. That is the opportunity God's people today are given-one that those ancient peoples did not have.
In this resurrection to judgment, the "Book of Life" will be opened. The people who will have flesh-and-blood life will be given a chance to conform to the attitude and behavior God requires for His gift of eternal, spiritual life.
People of Sodom will repent
The people of Sodom will learn that there is a God who has something to say about the right way to live. They will be taught that right way, and many, probably most, will repent.
After all, they would have repented if Jesus had performed miracles in their day. But Jesus did not; God wasn't trying to save them at that time. But He will be in this future time, and, with most, He will be successful.
What the ancient peoples lacked-an understanding of what God wants-they will be given in this future resurrection. They, like the queen of the South, will learn about the miracles Jesus performed, and they will surely repent when face to face with their Judge.
Repentance is the most critical part. God won't give anyone eternal life who insists on living the way that produces misery. People have to change from the way that hurts, to the way that helps.
The people of Sodom will have to change their attitude-from pride to humility before God from rebellion to obedience from rejection of moral standards to acceptance of them.
If they change, they will be forgiven, and they won't have to be destroyed a second time. They will not experience the "second death" described in Revelation 20:14.
The people of Sodom nearly 4,000 years ago didn't have a chance for salvation. So God, who is perfectly fair toward everyone, will give them one but only one-opportunity.
They, like most people, will understand the lessons of history much better after it's all written. When they are resurrected, they'll be able to see the results of thousands of years of disobedience. They'll be able to compare the temporary pleasures of immorality with its long-term pains. And they'll learn about the 1,000 years of righteousness, and its peaceful, satisfying results.
God knows that most people will choose His way of life when they are given a clear choice.