Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Destruction of Sodom


Tom Strait’s recent column in The Blackshear Times, “What Do You Think Jesus Would Do?” is filled with numerous errors both explicit and implicit.

He errs regarding the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia.   He errs with his implications about the character and conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible.  And he errs about the historical Biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Theologically, this third mistake is the root cause of the first two and is therefore the subject of this post.

No accurate and complete reading of the Scriptures would indicate that an inhospitable attitude “sealed the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah,” as Strait suggests.  The fact that Strait’s theory finds sympathy among liberal revisionist theologians is irrelevant.  Repeating an error has never made it true and it doesn’t do so in this case either.

Were the men of Sodom inhospitable toward the visiting men who were, in fact, angelic messengers of grace as described in Genesis 19?  Absolutely.  But that wasn’t Sodom’s ultimate offense.  It isn’t even close.

References to the city of Sodom appear throughout the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelation.  A good Bible student would examine each instance to get a full understanding of the issue.  To do otherwise is the ultimate example of “sound biting” God and taking His comments and actions woefully out of context.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 states, Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.  Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

The economy was good in Sodom.  The Gomorrah-Jones Industrial Average rose every day.  In this environment of prosperity and blessing the wealthy forgot about the poor and they oppressed the needy.  There is surely a strong word of warning and rebuke for the modern church and its focus on institutional growth and financial prosperity.  But that’s not why God destroyed Sodom.

The people of Sodom forgot about God.  Their eyes and hearts were filled with pride and they turned away from God.  That’s why verse 50 above says, “THUS they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.” (emphasis mine)  The pride and prosperity led to wicked abominations.

Their propensity to do whatever gratified the flesh and lined their pockets led them to commit unspeakable abominations.  But what were those abominations?

Could it have been the inhospitable actions toward the visiting angels in Genesis 19?  Well, considering the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was determined in the mind of God back in Genesis 18, it seems unlikely that an event in Genesis 19 prompted the wrath of God.  To say that chapter 19 prompted chapter 18 is anachronistic at best.

Further, 2 Peter 2:8 describes the destruction of Sodom and references their “lawless deeds” that occurred “day after day.”  It is clear that the destruction of Sodom was not due to a single event of inhospitality or any other single event for that matter.  Well, what were those “lawless deeds?”

2 Peter 2:7 calls their sin, “sensual conduct.”  Verse 10 of the same chapter describes the actions as “indulg(ing) the flesh in its corrupt desires.”

Bible students have long recognized that 2 Peter and Jude are parallel books.  So it’s not surprising that Jude 7 describes the same issue.  “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Neither of these passages requires the reader to be a Bible scholar or have an advanced degree in ancient Greek to understand their clear meaning.

Strait turns the Bible on its end to reach his flawed conclusions.  Did Jesus reserve harsh criticism, perhaps His very harshest criticisms for the religious leaders of His day?  Yes.  But to imply that Christ’s criticisms of first-century dead religious Judaism would necessarily require contemporary Divine criticisms of those who hold a Scriptural view of homosexuality as a perversion is an exegetical error of Biblical proportion.

If you don't know what it means to make "an exegetical error of Biblical proportion" let me make it simple:  People who make such a claim don't have a clue as to what the Bible is actually teaching.

Was the riotous mob at Sodom inhospitable toward the angels?  Certainly.  The Sodomites were so inhospitable they tried to gang-rape the angels who they mistakenly thought were mortal men.  Lot in his compromised spiritual state offered his daughters to the crowd all the while emphasizing they were biological virgins.  The historical context of Genesis 19 is utterly steeped in immoral passions and saturated with ungodly sexual desires.

If a visitor to a modern home is accosted and threatened with gang-induced sodomy, it is highly doubtful any of us would dial 9-1-1 and report a case of inhospitality.  To suggest otherwise stretches common sense to its breaking point.

Both 2 Peter and Jude reference the destruction of Sodom in connection with the return of Christ and the wrath He will pour upon the ungodly.  By God’s grace, the wrath is not poured out on the basis of sexual purity or sexual pasts but on the singular basis of a person’s relationship with Christ Himself.  It is Christ’s death on the cross that provides the escape from God’s wrath.  And His forgiveness is available to anyone who will repent and believe the gospel.

After describing the destruction of Sodom (don’t miss that), Simon Peter’s second epistle tells us three things about the vengeful and victorious second coming of Christ and the rejection of this doctrine by future generations.  He tells us THAT the doctrine would be rejected, WHY the doctrine would be rejected, and HOW the doctrine would be rejected.

THAT it will be rejected
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking…

WHY it will be rejected
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts…

HOW it will be rejected
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Simply put, the day will come that people will deny the coming wrath of God against present sin.  To further their case, they will seek to deny that the God of the Bible ever poured out wrath against sin.  At least, if He did, it wasn’t for any of the sins we commit today.  God's wrath against sin is ironically reserved for those who speak of His wrath against sin.

And the rejection of the wrath of God will be because men want to do whatever they want to do, pursuing their owns lusts, with no consideration for the righteous laws of God.  To defend their immoral desires, they will monkey around with the book of Genesis.

The American culture does this on a regular basis.  But for a clear example of this doctrinal error, one need only read the guest column in the April 8, 2015 edition of The Blackshear Times.