The Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah – Matthew 10:5-15

 
 Over a hundred years ago, pastor J.C. Ryle said that this scripture was woefully neglected. He said that there are intriguing and instructive lessons hidden in each verse. But especially importantly, there is a vital principle almost completely ignored in verse 11. If that was true in 1913 then it probably even more true today with our “politically correct” attitudes. “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” Let’s review just a bit and then apply ourselves specifically to verse 11.

Verse 5 –These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As I have said, this was the commission given to the first Christian church and its missionaries. They were sent out in pairs; first into six cities, then likely twelve, twenty-four and thirty-six. And why? Because there is a lie of Satan in which he says that Pharisees please God, and so do the Sadducees, Essenes, Romans, Greeks and even the barbarians. It is thought that everybody is traveling to Heaven even though they may all be taking different roads. Today we hear people say there are no real differences between any of the Christians denominations. In fact, there are no real differences between any of the world’s religions. The Methodists, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and Muslims all worship and serve the same God. And they shall all spend the same eternity in the same mansions in the same Heaven. In fact, some will go so far as to say that there will even be a sub-division in Heaven for the atheists. In other words – homosexuals, polygamists and pedophiles are just as worthy of Paradise as anyone else.

But of course, this is impossible – because in all these different churches and religions are different Christs. In different churches there are different doctrines and different attitudes toward sin. In different churches there are different roads to forgiveness and peace with God. Unfortunately, despite the nice road signs put up by those various denominations and religions, nearly all their alleys and trails lead to dead-ends or collapsed bridges. The Campbellites don’t teach Biblical salvation, nor do the Roman Catholics or the Millarites. That is, neither do the Church of Christ or the Seventh Day Adventists. Nearly every religion in the world preaches some sort of human salvation thought the works of the flesh. And of course, this is contrary to the revealed Word of God which declares salvation by sovereign grace. The fact that it was necessary for our Lord to send out his Apostles shows us that just because a man goes to church or to the synagogue – that doesn’t make him acceptable before God. The religious, and morally good, people of Galilee were hopelessly enslaved by sin and headed to Hell. If this teaches us anything, it is that the near proximity to the truth by the Hebrew people didn’t mean much – they needed to be evangelized. A simple nearness to the Saviour, didn’t save anyone from their sin; Judas being a perfect example.

Verses 9-10 are confusing scriptures to some people. “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” When I was pastoring in Calgary, a man called to ask if Christian pastor’s ought to be paid a salary. I said that although I was not receiving a salary from the church at that time, yes, pastors should be supported through the tithes and offerings of the church which they serve. The man groaned and said that he’d never come to our church because that was contrary to the Bible. Then he quoted these verses. That man totally missed the boat here and had fallen into a polluted puddle. This scripture tells the missionary not to burden himself with finances, jobs and bank accounts if possible. This says, that the servant of God is dependent upon the Lord through the help and offerings of others. “Dedicate yourself to the mission and let others care whether or not you need a new coat.”

Verse 7 gives to us the missionary’s message – “as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Other related scriptures add a single powerful word to that message – “REPENT, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The people of this world are sinners, and the place to start with sin is repentance. It doesn’t stop there, of course, because the message of the missionary must end in Christ – the King. But murderers, homosexuals, whoremongers, warmongers, thieves, adulterers and drunks all need to repent. Except they repent, they shall all likewise perish, just as did the people of the flood – and of Sodom. The people of the synagogue, the mosque and the Baptist church need to repent – as well the Sodomites. “The times of our weakness God winked at but now commandeth ALL MEN EVERYWHERE to repent.” “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if peradventure the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” The great need of this world of sin and wretchedness is the humble reception of Christ. But He cannot be approached with out faith and repentance of sin on our part.

Verse 8 speaks about the way in which those early missionaries were proven to be God’s men. It was with miracles: the casting out of demons, devils and diseases. Our missionaries need to be reminded: “Hey, Brother Parrow, you are an Ambassador of the true King; the God over all things great and small. He can whip any foe; cure any hard case; exorcize any evil. Now get out there and preach Christ Jesus – the Saviour of sinful men.” Our God can still do anything at His will, and He still does. But – the authentication of our ministry is no longer miracles – today, it is this Book. Our message and our authority come from the pages of the King James Bible – not miracles. Our power comes from the Bible as well. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Don’t pray that your pastor might have power to heal cancer patients, diabetes or even shingles; rather pray that through him people are lead to Christ to be born again.

Verse 14 speaks of the Apostolic rebuke and rejection of the unbeliever, infidel and agnostic. “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust under your feet.” This dust kicking was a symbolical act – but what was the message? Remember that the Pharisees had a phobia about the dust of the Gentiles getting into Israel. If the dust of an heathen touched them, they felt themselves to be cut off from the worship of the Lord. If the dust of an infidel touched one of their cooking pots, Momma just might get a new eight piece set of stainless steel kitchenware. While I seriously doubt that Jesus would have condoned this excessiveness of the Pharisees. Yet certainly they would have thought that He was referring to this sort of thing here. As the Pharisee thought that Gentile dust was unclean, Jesus was saying that the Pharisaical hypocrisy and unbelief was unclean. Despite what they might have thought, this symbol probably illustrated something more simple than that. It was probably just a statement that “we will have no fellowship with you.” And by “no fellowship,” we won’t even have fellowship with your dust and dirt. Then too, that tiny pile of dirt kicked off the shoe of the missionary, was a kind of witness. Remember all the memorials in the Old Testament: Gilgal, Ed, Shiloh, and so on? The place named “Ed” in Hebrew actually meant “witness.” It was said that such places would be witnesses against the nation if they ever forsook the Lord. Maybe this little pile of dirt will speak as a witness against those people at their judgment. “You heard the message of repentance and faith, but you turned your backs against it.” Something else to consider might be the dust of Egypt turning into a plague in Exodus 9:9? The dust that these missionaries kicked off against the unbelievers will be a plague upon them in the great day of judgment.

And that brings us to our theme for this morning: the Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah

There are several things contained in verse 15 which are very important. They must be recognized by each and every one of us, and then they must be acted upon. “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”

But first it needs to be said that Sodom and Gomorrah were two very real places – cities on the plain of Jordan. They are not imaginary dots on fictitious maps – like Middle Earth for the Hobbits. They were not boogy-men cities, or monster cities hiding in the closet to scare the kids into obedience. They were the largest among several wicked communities in what was the fruitful Jordan valley. And God destroyed them with the power of His will. Some people say, “But we haven’t found the remains or the debris of these cities. We can see wicked Port Royal, Jamaica with glass bottom boats and scuba gear. We have unearthed and found the hidden horrors of Pompeii. We can drive to southern Alberta and see the devastation of the wicked town of FRANK after Turtle mountain slid down on it. But we can’t find evidence of Sodom or Gomorrah, so this must be a fable.” Hog wash – the lack of remains show that God’s wrath was thoroughly hot against them. Those two cities were whipped off the surface of this planet; liquidated perhaps by volcanic heat. God doesn’t do things half-way – when He destroys, then things really are destroyed – vaporized.

Just because Sodom and Gomorrah are proverbial – the epitome of wickedness – that doesn’t mean that there is no substance to their story. It means precisely the opposite – absolute truth. Genesis 18:20 – “The Lord said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grievous.” Genesis 13:13 – “The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Jude 7 says that they deserved the vengeance of God in eternal fire.

One of the problems in reading scriptures like these is that we might look at them, and then look at ourselves concentrating on our righteousness over their wickedness. We are not Sodomites; we are not as wicked as those people. We might gloat over our relative righteousness in the light of the Gomorrahites obvious lack of it in them. What were their sins? Can we make a long list? Can we prove they more wicked than people of our city? Genesis 13 says that the area around Sodom and Gomorrah was highly prosperous. Was that a contributing factor to their sin before God? Wealth has a tendency to turn people into virtual or practical atheists. It is harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The mismanagement of wealth is certainly one the problems that we have in our own country. II Peter says that the people of those cities lived ungodly, unlawfully and with filthy lives. That is precisely what we find surrounding us in our country. Jude says, that they gave themselves over to fornication and strange flesh. That means that a large number of those people were wholly given to sexual immorality. Is the United States any better than Sodom and Gomorrah? A large portion of their population were homosexuals, and today we live in a country with a growing acceptance of that same homosexuality. The Genesis record tells us that a majority of the male population were sexual perverts.

“Perverted” is a perfectly good word to use to describe the “homosexual.” The word means “to cause to turn away from what is right, proper or good – to corrupt.” It means to “bring to a bad or worse condition; to debase. To put to a wrong or improper use – to misuse.” This is precisely the sin of the people of Sodom – the Sodomites – sexual perversion. And if you want my personal opinion, “queer” is not a particularly good word to use for the homosexual. Because “queer” refers to a deviation from the normal in an odd, eccentric or comical sort of way. I would prefer to use the word the way that my mother did talking about odd and funny events or people. It’s a shame that a perfectly good word has become so degraded.

Turn to Romans 1:21-27 and its description of people like these Sodomites. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

The last indictment against the people of Sodom was that they harkened not to the Lord. When their sin was exposed, and they even had their wrists slapped and their eyes blinded, they refused to listen to the warning and command of God. That is precisely what Christ was saying would happen during the ministries of the twelve. They went into city after city preaching Christ and preaching repentance, but more often than not they had no hearers. Those cities will be judged more severely than even Sodom and Gomorrah. These are characteristics of North America. The gospel has been preached in this nation for a couple of centuries, and with each generation we have grown more and more wicked, refusing to harken to the Word of the Lord. The point is that Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked places – deserving of the judgment that they received. But we, today, are at least as wicked as Sodom was

Here is John Greenleaf Whittier’s poetic description of the destruction of Sodom. I know that I’ve read it before, but it’s been a few years. “Get up from the wrath of God’s terrible day! Ungirded, unsandalled, arise and away! ‘Tis the vintage of blood, ’tis the fulness of time, And vengeance shall gather the harvest of crime!

‘Twas an evening of beauty; the air was perfume, The earth was all greenness, the trees were all bloom; And softly the delicate viol was heard, Like the murmur of love, or the notes of a bird.

And beautiful maidens moved down in the dance, With the magic of motion and sunshine of glance: And white arms wreathed lightly, and tresses fell free. And the plumage of birds in some tropical tree.

Where the shrines of foul idols were lighted on high, And wantonness tempted the lust of the eye; Midst rites of obsceneness, strange, loathsome, abhorred, The blasphemerer scoffed at the name of the Lord

Hark! the growl of the thunder – the quaking of earth! Woe, woe to the worship, and woe to the mirth! The black sky has opened – there’s flame in the air – The red arm of vengeance is lifted and bare!

Then the shriek of the dying rose wild where the song. And the low tone of love had been whispered along; For the fierce flames went lightly o’er palace and bower, Like the red tongues of demons, to blast and devour!

Down — down on the fallen the red ruin rained, And the reveler sank with his wine-cup undrained. The foot of the dancer, the music’s loved thrill, And the shout and the laughter grew suddenly still.”

By the clear declaration of the Word of the Lord, there is a day of judgment coming. The relationship of most people to that judgment day can be likened to our thoughts about the stars. We may not think of the starry host as important objects in our lives. They are small; they certainly put very little light upon our backs at 10:00 p.m. They must be insignificant and useless little places. But not so, most of them are so large that they’d make the light of our sun look like a 25 watt bulb. Many would burn our planet to a bit of worn out charcoal in an instant if brought as close as our sun. The only reason that they accomplish so little is that they lay a great distance from earth. So it is with God’s judgment of man – it appears insignificant because it appears to be so far off. But just as God promised a flood in the days of Noah and the world became a single ocean, God has promised another judgment prior to the arrival of the Lake of Fire. Yes, the Lord waited during the days of Noah one decade and then two; one century and then another. But eventually, after 969 years the judgment fell on a sinful and rebellious world. And I guarantee that it is coming again. The judgment of God for your sin is guaranteed – either you shall bear it or your Divine Substitute already has.

But why should it be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Capernaum or Galilee?

We’ve already said that Sodom was a terribly wicked place. Is the Lord saying that Sodom was less sinful than the unnamed places to which Apostles were sent? That simply does not fit the descriptions we have of cities of the Jordanian plain.

Will it be more tolerable for Sodom because that city has already been judged? Does earthly pain, mean that the recipient is absolved from eternal pain? They have not already been judged in the ultimate sense of the word. To die in a house fire does not give someone a pass from the fires of Hell. “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the JUDGMENT.” The people of those communities were not yet judged; Their cities and homes were destroyed and they lost their earthly lives, but each one of these filthy souls lived on. Their souls were incarcerated; they were jailed so to speak. And they shall continue so until Revelation 20, when the dead small and great shall stand before God. They are all in Hades today, awaiting their day in Divine court when they shall from there be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. No, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah really know very little about judgment – yet.

But why will those people find judgment more tolerable than the cities of Galilee and Judah? Because they knew less of the grace, mercy and judgment of Jehovah. Some day I plan to preach a message entitled: “Sodom had no Bible.” There is the reason why they will find hell a bit more bearable than Capernaum or Galilee.

As difficult as this doctrine is to understand, Hell is Hell, but it will be more hellish for some than others. Why is it that at that judgment “books shall be opened and the dead shall be judged out of those books?” Because those books record a great deal about the lives of those condemned souls. They will say that the man that goes from this church to hell is responsible for more Truth than the man that goes to hell from the Mormon church or the Muslim mosque. The people of this church have heard more of the gospel of Christ than most other church-goers. You have had more opportunity and heard more reasons to turn to the Lord. And in rejecting the Lord, you have expressed more rebellion and more unbelief. It’s not that the Sodomites will escape eternal punishment. It’s that the people of Galilee, Jerusalem and Calvary Baptist Church will be judged more severely if they refuse to accept the message of the grace of God.

Jesus told Pilate that Judas, His betrayer, was in far worse trouble than the governor. Why? Because the former disciple had more light and more opportunity than that wicked Roman. When the rich man was begging for a drop of help in his hellish torment Abraham is quoted to have said, “Son, remember; Son remember.” That pile of dirt before your door, kicked from the disciple’s shoe, will rise up in judgment before you. You have heard of God’s grace, but you laughed at it; you rejected it. You are doomed.

The point is this – if you refuse repentance and union with the Saviour, you will find that the perverts of Gomorrah will have an easier hell than you shall have. The hypocrites among the Pharisees have more to fear than Pharaoh of Egypt. “Woe unto you Corazin and Capernaum, for if the mighty works that had been done in thee had been done in Gentile Tyre or Sidon, they would have repented in dust and ashes.”

And what about you? Have you brought forth fruit meet for repentance?