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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Jude." To view all parts, click the link below.
Having finished his examples of how men may start out having some level of faith and then fall away later, Jude then speaks of divine judgment. In Jude 6 he wrote about the angels who sinned, telling us that God has put them in aidios bonds “under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
He does not explain the nature of those bonds, other than what is implied in the word aidios, which is that they are unseen or hidden. Perhaps by using this unusual Greek word, he was confessing his lack of further revelation about it. Hence, he says no more about it.
In Jude 7 he continues with his next topic as he expounds further upon “the judgment of the great day.”
7 Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality [ekporneuo] and went after strange [heteros, “another, other, not of the same nature, class, or kind”] flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal [aionios] fire.
This refers to the story found in Genesis 18 and 19, where God destroyed Sodom, Gomorrah, “and the cities around them.” Moses later lists four cities in Deuteronomy 29:23, “Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.”
The Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah
Apparently, all of these cities “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.” Jude was referring specifically to homosexual behavior, because when the angels (posing as men) took lodging at the house of Lot and his family, the men of the city surround the house and demanded the right to have sexual relations with them. Genesis 19:4-8 says,
4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; 5 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 have relations with them.” 6 But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.” 8 “Now, behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man, please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
Jude calls their sin ekporneuo, an enhanced form of porneo, “fornication,” and from which we derive the term pornography. Fornication, biblically speaking, is any unlawful sexual relation, including prostitution, adultery, incest (1 Corinthians 5:1), bestiality, and (in this case) homosexual relations. Any claims that one’s fornication is based on “love” are invalid because love is defined by the God of Love, whose law is an expression of His nature. Anything that falls short of God’s love also falls short of God’s purpose for mankind, and God will not leave anyone in such a state forever. His promise is to write the law upon every heart.
I should also add that the law of God, when applied as an external force, regulates behavior. It is only the Holy Spirit that can change the heart itself. In a practical sense, then, the law does not condemn homosexuals as such but only condemns homosexual acts. Homosexuals may indeed believe in Jesus Christ, submit to the law of God by refraining from sin, and claim the promise of God that He will write the law in their hearts as He promised in His New Covenant vow.
The Judgment in Jude’s Prophecy
Jude’s reference suggests that Sodom and Gomorrah served “as an example” of the judgment that is yet to come at “the great day,” that is, the Great White Throne judgment. Isaiah 1:9 and 10 prophetically calls Israel Sodom and Gomorrah, saying,
9 Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors [“remnant”], we would have been like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah.
As a nation slides into darkness away from God and His law, it increasingly resembles Sodom and Gomorrah. Homosexual behavior was rampant in the Greek and Roman empires, in which the church stood as a beacon of light in opposing such sin. But the Church under the anointing of Pentecost proved to be inadequate to the task of turning the world to righteousness.
We today are now seeing the result of the Church’s failure. News accounts, especially since 2001, have exposed many church leaders and priests being guilty of homosexual behavior, usually including pedophilia. And so the sin of Sodom itself included “both young and old” demanding homosexual relations (Genesis 19:4).
Years ago, I discerned from Isaiah 1:9 and 10 that the day would come when America itself would legalize homosexual relations and that this would be the final stage of degradation before our deliverance and judgment. This has proven to be true, and it is significant that it came just before the transfer of authority to the saints of the Most High in October 2017.
Isaiah’s message was not only gloom and doom. Isaiah 1:9 suggests that the remnant of grace will prevent the judgment of God from destroying the nation as God did with Sodom and Gomorrah. The fact is, the Lord of hosts has indeed left America and other nations with a remnant of grace in order to ensure that the same destruction would not be repeated. The overcomers are called to agree with God in all of His ways and in all of His judgments. Their presence in a nation is the guarantee of grace and mercy.
This principle is suggested in the story of Lot, where the angels would not destroy the city until Lot and his family had escaped. Lot dragged his feet and complained, not understanding the urgency of the situation, but the angels “seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him” (Genesis 19:16).
In our time, where the nations and the entire world are being threatened by divine judgment, we are not being led to leave, for where would we go? The sin is too widespread, and there is no place to run and hide. We can only escape by refusing the lifestyle of the world and by living in agreement with the nature and law of God. Hence, God has forced a different situation upon us, by requiring that we remain in the new Sodom and the new Gomorrah in order to bring the baptism of fire (the Holy Spirit) as a New Covenant form of judgment. This judges the sin but saves the sinner. This eradicates the lawlessness by causing the people to repent.
In other words, the nature of the “fire” is defined by the “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV). A sentence of double restitution for theft is a “fire.” A sentence of slavery is a “fire.” Jesus said in Luke 12:48, 49 that the sentence of flogging with few or many stripes is a “fire.” The fire was not meant to be taken literally but as a figure of perfect judgment proceeding from the divine nature itself. For this reason God portrayed Himself only as fire (Deuteronomy 4:24 and 36).
Lot was a prophetic type of a believer but not an overcomer. He was the nephew of Abraham but was not part of Abraham’s household of faith. Thus he had chosen to live in Sodom amidst the immorality and corruption of the fertile plain where he might prosper financially. Even so, he was called “righteous” in 2 Peter 2:7, indicating that he was a non-overcoming believer. Hence, his life was spared, though he lost all of his possessions in the divine judgment.
The Purpose of the Remnant
We who are prospective overcomers are the “remnant” of the day, and we are united with the same remnant of 7,000 that lived in the days of Elijah. Our calling is to manifest the presence of God in “Sodom” to ensure grace and thus prevent the destruction of the world. To reword Isaiah’s prophecy, because God has left a remnant of grace in the world, we will not be as Sodom or Gomorrah.
This is God’s way of fulfilling His New Covenant vow, beginning with the covenant given through Noah in Genesis 9:11,
11 And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.
Many Christians limit this covenant to a watery destruction, saying that the earth will indeed be destroyed but this time by fire. The wording in Genesis certainly allows for such an interpretation, but when we see that this is based upon the New Covenant (as also with the covenant with Abraham), it is clear that the spirit of this covenant is to provide grace to the earth, not merely to change the manner of destruction for the earth.
If I were to make a promise that no sinner would ever be drowned again but would instead be burned forever in fire, would there be any real benefit in this change in the form of judgment? Such a covenant would be devoid of grace and would actually be worse! How, then, could the people take comfort in seeing a rainbow in the clouds?
The Eternal Fire
Jude 7 compares the destruction of Sodom with “undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” The word translated “punishment” is inadequate, as it is a word that focuses on inflicting pain, rather than on establishing justice. The Greek word is dike, which means justice, a suit at law, a judicial hearing, judicial decision, especially a sentence of condemnation.
It is clear that dike is not about the act of punishment but is about rendering a guilty verdict in a court of law and passing sentence upon him in accordance with the law. God’s law is based on the principle of “eye for eye,” where the judgment always fits the crime (Exodus 21:24). The law also says, “burn for burn” (Exodus 21:25).
It is self-evident that the judgment of the law is that if a man burns his neighbor, and if he and his victim cannot agree upon a monetary figure for compensation, then, as a last resort, the law would sentence the sinner to be burned in the same manner that he burned his neighbor.
There is no way for any man to burn his neighbor eternally, so there is no judgment of the law that would judge any man to be burned forever. Eternal punishment is unlawful, for no man can commit so much sin in a limited lifetime as to warrant judgment for eternity.
Jude uses the Greek adjective, aionios, to describe the fire. The word is derived from aion, which is an eon or age. One may argue whether an age is limited or infinite, but in the end we must define it through Hebrew eyes. The Hebrew-Greek dictionary had been established two or three centuries before Christ when the 70 rabbis translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. This was called the Septuagint Translation, and by the first century it defined Hebrew-Greek equivalents.
The Greek words aionios and aionian were used to express in Greek the meaning of the Hebrew word olam. Hence, we must define aionios in accordance with the meaning of olam, rather than seek for an independent definition based on Greek culture and usage. Olam means “hidden, unknown, indefinite,” for it is derived from the root word alam, “to conceal, to hide.”
When the word is used to describe time, it means an age, an indefinite period of time, whose duration is hidden—usually, until it comes to an end. The judgments of God depended upon the seriousness of the crime. Not everyone was given the same sentence. Hence, lawful judgments might be to pay little or much, or to be enslaved for a day, a year, or a decade. The term olam was an indefinite term, because the judgment was supposed to fit the specific crime.
Hence, Jude 7 indicates that the literal fire that struck Sodom and Gomorrah was a prophetic type of the fiery law by which the earth will be judged at “the great day.” The main difference is that the remnant of grace will change the destructive fire into the New Covenant’s baptism of fire, which burns the chaff (flesh) in order to set men free of their own sin and depravity.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Jude." To view all parts, click the link below.