As a vivid example of God’s judgment on wickedness, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah stands out among the Lord’s works in the book of Genesis. In today’s study, we will examine how other writers of Scripture use this episode to teach us and then focus finally on the application Jesus makes of this story to His own ministry.
Not surprisingly, we hear echoes of Sodom in the Old Testament even before the city is again referenced explicitly after Genesis 19. For instance, Leviticus 18 commands Israel not to participate in the kinds of sexual sins practiced in Canaan, for those sins moved God to cast the Canaanites out of the land. Condemnations of homosexuality (v. 22) and incest (vv. 6–18) would have readily brought Sodom to mind, emphasizing that Israel must not become like those whom Yahweh judged with fire and sulfur in Lot’s day.
In addition to Canaan, the Lord also warns other pagan nations that they will experience an end like Sodom’s because of their sin. Jeremiah, for one, applies this warning to Edom (49:17–18). Most striking, however, is that the prophets regularly compare the covenant community to Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 1:10 addresses the leaders of Israel as “rulers of Sodom” and the citizens as “people of Gomorrah,” because the Israelites became as wicked as those whom God earlier destroyed. Ezekiel 16:46–58 warns Jerusalem that she has become even worse than Sodom and therefore must endure exile.
Though His people spurned Him, the Lord did not forget them in their exile but instead sent the Messiah to inaugurate His kingdom. Unlike the Sodomites, those who lived during Jesus’ earthly ministry heard the call to repent. If the Messiah and His warnings were received, today’s passage tells us, great blessing would come (Luke 10:1–9). But if Christ and the apostles were rejected, a fate worse than Sodom’s would follow because the rejectors heard the word of the Lord spoken from His own mouth (vv. 10–12).
This warning is for all people today. If men remain in their transgressions and do not receive Christ, they will find themselves worse off than Sodom. Let all people therefore repent and trust in Him.
The first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses reads: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said, ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Christ’s application of the destruction of Sodom reminds us to check ourselves daily and turn from sin. It also tells us of the fate of those who reject the Gospel. As you share your faith, do not forget to warn others that their decision has eternal consequences.