As we look at Sodom and Gomorrah in the context of “the wrath of God,” it would be good for us to ask ourselves the following questions: what happens when a person passes completely over into Satan’s jurisdiction? What does the condition of that person look like? What happens when Satan has complete freedom to control us? What does total demon possession look like? What about entire nations or cities? What would life be like in a place that was completely under the power of Satan?
Paul gave us the answer to these questions in Romans chapter one. This is what those who are one hundred percent imbued with the spirit of Satan look like and behave:
being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Romans 1:29-32).
The people described here are “filled with all unrighteousness.” They are not just filled with some unrighteousness, but are “filled with all unrighteousness.” If the reader recollects, the same was the case with the people who lived just before the flood.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5, emphasis added).
“Every intent of the thoughts” of the antediluvians was “only evil continually.” This describes a scenario in which people are completely given over to Satan and his satanic ways. No society can survive this!
As we have seen, God’s response to those who completely reject Him and join Satan is to let them go. This is also expressed in Genesis chapter six regarding the people before the flood:
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3)
Many interpret this to mean that God decides at a certain point to stop working with the disobedient. Or that He simply loses His patience and drops the hammer. But shouldn’t an infinitely patient God have continued to strive with the antediluvians even though they had given themselves completely over to Satan? Isn’t God long-suffering?
Yes, and God did strive with them till the very last ray of hope was extinguished. But at a certain time, God saw that there was no point in striving anymore, because they had completely rejected Him and His principles of righteousness. They were “filled with all unrighteousness,” and because they were filled to the top, like that symbolic cup of iniquity, they had gone beyond the point of no return. It was for this reason that God would no longer “strive”—which in Hebrew means to plead, teach, warn—with them anymore. He could no longer give them His Spirit of love because they had completely rejected it. Then notice the next words:
the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7).
While the wording of this last verse categorically states that God Himself was going to destroy everything from the face of the earth, as we look to the controversy taking place behind the scenes between God and Satan, we see that the people had moved over entirely to Satan’s jurisdiction, and God was in effect forced to let them go. He was forced to give them up because of their own choices. He was forced to stop protecting them from the Destroyer.
God had to do the same with Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will soon see through the Book of Hosea that this is indeed what He did. God could no longer hold things together in order to protect those two cities because they crossed the line and fully entered Satan’s jurisdiction.
But here is another question, perhaps the most important of all questions: what does a ruler do—a ruler who thinks and acts completely within the paradigm of the reward and punishment system of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—to his own people when they are operating outside of the law? What would such a ruler do to the subjects of his kingdom who are misbehaving and acting in evil ways? How would such a ruler deal with them?
Obviously, he would do one of two things if he operates entirely from within the reward and punishment system: he would either reward or punish them. If they are behaving according to his will, he will reward them. And if they are misbehaving, he will punish them. Or he might reward them in order to motivate them to behave properly. But no matter what he does, he will always act from within the parameters of Good and Evil—from within the reward and punishment system.
It may be hard for us to think that Satan punishes people for being evil, or even worse, that he wants people to be good. Why is this so? Because our concept of Satan is that he just wants to do evil, since he himself is so wicked. Being so evil himself, why would he care if people are good? Why would he want people to be good? Some have put it this way: if evil people belong to Satan, why would Satan destroy his own people?
Let us put this in another context then. What about human beings like you and me? Aren’t we, according to the Bible, evil? Yes, we are evil. Romans chapter three makes that very clear:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18)
As you see, there is no one who really lives out God’s righteousness. No one who understands what agape love really is. We have all turned aside from God’s ways of love. We think we are good, but there is no one who even knows what it means to be good. We are steeped in the ways of the serpent; “the poison of asps” is under our lips. Our feet “are swift to shed blood.” “Destruction and misery” are in our ways, and “the way of peace,” God’s way of agape love, we have not known. And just like Satan, we function through the system of reward and punishment too—after all, we were all brought into this system through Adam and Eve’s eating of that Tree. We operate in Satan’s system of reward and punishment all the time at home, at work, in the world.
So then, having established that we have the same modus operandi as Satan, we ask the question: do we care if people are good or evil? Yes, we do. Do we want people to be good? Yes, we do. Do we punish them in order to correct them? we do! What about those people that are our own people: do we punish them? Do we punish our own children, our own flesh and blood? Yes, absolutely we do! We have learned our methods of reward and punishment from Satan; we have copied him. And if we operate by the same principles as he does, then why wouldn’t he do the same? Why wouldn’t he punish, and turn against his own people?
The great problem with all this is that most of us have believed that it is God who rules through reward and punishment. At one time or another we all believed that when God saw the scope of the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah, He became so disgusted that He could not take it anymore. He became so indignant, so angry, so incensed, that He lost His cool. Or He became so afraid that the rest of us would follow their example that He decided to make an example of them to us: “Do you want to see what I do with evil people? You better watch out! You better behave, or this is what I will do to you too.” Sounds like that Christmas song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, doesn’t it?
Thus, we reckoned that a time came when God decided that Sodom and Gomorrah had passed the limits of His forbearance. The time had come when He had to destroy them, obliterate them from the face of the earth, just like He had done to the antediluvians.
But wait a minute… if indeed God had sent the flood, then He had also made an example of those antediluvians… but if He had made an example of them…did it work? No, it didn’t work! Humanity didn’t pay attention to that huge “lesson” that was the flood; people still continued sinning! So then was God going to have to do it again to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Are God’s solutions to the sin problem so faulty that if they don’t work the first He then has to implement them over and over again? Can God really be this illogical and ineffectual?
What a horrible concept of God this is! If this is true, then God’s solutions are utterly inadequate and inefficient, because, honestly, they don’t seem to work at all! Throughout history people have misbehaved regardless of how many so-called examples God is supposed to have made of sinners.
We need to keep in mind that God can only be one of two things: either He is agape love or He is a God who operates by Good and Evil. Either He is the Tree of Life, or He is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Either His scepter is the scepter of righteousness or the scepter of iniquity (Hebrews 1:8). Either He is nonviolent (Isaiah 53:9) or He uses violence like Lucifer does (Ezekiel 28:16).
God cannot be both agape and Good and Evil. And if He is agape, then He cannot punish, because “perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18). Perfect love, which is agape love, casts out fear, because fear is a response to a threat of punishment; therefore, agape love cannot operate by punishment. With all of this in mind then, let us go and see what really happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
Sodom and Gomorrah were situated in a paradisiacal setting. We learn this from the dialogue between Abraham and Lot, when Abraham was giving Lot the first choice in selecting a place to settle. Abraham told his nephew:
Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other (Genesis 13:9-11, emphasis added).
The plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were situated, was well watered everywhere by the river Jordan, and as such it was like “the Garden of the Lord,” the Garden of Eden, which had been watered by four rivers. And it was also like Egypt, which was watered by the Nile. Could there be some symbolic meaning to this? Why are “rivers” being mentioned here?
We all know that “water” means life. This is true everywhere, but especially in the Middle East where there are many desert areas. It also means prosperity, affluence and comfort. A river is the life of a city. In fact, there is no better place to start a city than by a river. The river provides the water for the people to drink, to grow food, travel, bathe and swim. A river is a blessing all around.
Now we know that in the Bible the word “water” can be used literally, but it can also be used symbolically, as in the Book of Revelation where water is used as a symbol for “peoples”:
Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Revelation 17:15, emphasis added).
Notice how elsewhere in the Bible, “waters” can also signify the words that come out of a person’s mouth:
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook (Proverbs 18:4, emphasis added).
In Ezekiel and Revelation, when God speaks, His voice is “like the sound of many waters:”
And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory (Ezekiel 43:2, emphasis added).
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15, emphasis ).
Thus, “waters” not only means “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues,” but more specifically, it means the words that come out of those “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.”
What are those “peoples””—in the Book of Revelation thinking and saying in the context of the war between Satan and God? Which words are coming out of their mouths? Are they words from the Tree of Life? Or words from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? The verse itself tells us that they are thinking and saying words from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because the harlot, that body of false teachings about God, is sitting over the “waters.” The harlot teaches the people lies about God—she falsifies His image. She is a harlot because she is an adulteress. Her lover is the god of this world. Thus, everything she teaches about God is false, because what she is really teaching us is what the god of this world has taught her.
Now, we know that the word in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word for “law.” The words of the law are the words that come out from God’s mouth, which is the law of agape love, the law of life. And we know that agape love is all that comes out of God’s mouth, because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He is fully and only agape love. In Greek, Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), the Logos, the law—again, agape love.
Now, notice this: the Hebrew word comes from a primitive root, ’, which according to Strong’s Concordance means:
properly to flow as water (that is, to rain); transitively to lay or throw (especially an arrow, that is, to shoot); figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger), to teach: archer, cast, direct, inform, instruct, lay, shew, shoot, teach (-er, –), through (Strong’s Concordance, emphasis added).
In the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, which was written in pictures, symbols, just like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the word is written as a picture of a hand and a picture of a man. According to this Lexicon, this is how we are to interpret these symbols:
Combined these [THE PICTURES OF A HAND AND OF A MAN] mean “hand of man”. The hand of man is used for the throwing. A flowing of water in a river. A throwing of the finger to show a direction to walk or live. The throwing of an arrow. The throwing down of water in rain. Awe or fear where one throws self to the foot of one in authority (AHLB, emphasis added.
The ancient root of the word means “to flow as water,” “to rain.” “Figuratively,” it means to point something out, “to teach,” to “instruct.” Torah is the law of unconditional love through which God has been trying to teach the way of life to the human race for the past six thousand years. God’s words have been flowing out of His mouth; they have been raining out of His mouth onto us. The law is the center of the entire controversy between God and Satan. God’s law of agape love is like water that gives life to the one who lives by it. Water then is a symbol that points us to God’s law——of agape love.
We can think of some other instances where water is used to convey God’s teachings. Think of Moses’ symbolic act of striking the rock so that water would flow out of it. What was God trying to teach us through that? Moses’ striking the rock was pointing us to Jesus, who is the Rock, the cornerstone—God’s immutable truth.
Jesus Himself was stricken on the cross. And as he was stricken on the cross, water, words of life—the fulfillment of the law of agape love—flowed out of Him: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” The way Jesus taught the law of God was by fulfilling it—by living it out so we could see it in action. So that on the cross we see God’s law of life in action—God forgiving His enemies.
Jesus Himself used the word “water” as a symbol. The “water” Jesus gives us is “living water”—the water of life, because it is the law of agape love, the law of life. Notice His words to the Samaritan woman at the well:
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
The “water” Jesus would give to the Samaritan woman was His words, His teachings about God’s character of unconditional agape love. It was His unconditional love, His compassion, His message of hope, mercy, His message of life. His words were life-giving, just like water is life-giving.
Think also of the symbolism of the early and the latter rain, and connect it with the , the law of love. The early rain are the words which have proceeded out of the mouth of God throughout the past six thousand years, sprouting the seed of His law of love in our hearts. And the latter rain, a double portion of the revelation of His character of agape love through the Word, Jesus Christ, is that rain which prepares the human crop for the harvest at the end of the world—the harvest which takes place at the second coming of Christ.
In this context, think also of the river that flowed out of Eden to water the Garden, and divided into four heads:
Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates (Genesis 2:10-14, emphasis added).
Pishon means “increase.” Gihon means “bursting forth.” Hiddekel means “rapid,” and Euphrates means “fruitful.” Now, think of the river that flows out from the throne of God in Revelation twenty-two:
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
While these rivers may all be literal, they are also symbolic of everything that flows out from God toward us. God is life; water is life; God’s law is the law of life, and every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is life-giving:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GODMatthew 4:4, emphasis added).
With all this in mind, please pay close attention to the following passage from the Book of Ezekiel, in which the prophet has a vision of the river of life that proceeds from the temple of God:
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes (Ezekiel 47:1-9, emphasis added).
The message given here is that wherever God’s river of life flows, His river of words of unconditional agape love, it heals and gives life to whatever and whomever it touches: “everything will live wherever the river goes.” These passages are not talking about water in a literal sense. They are highly symbolic because Jesus Himself used them symbolically.
The symbolism of “water” becomes even more clear with the next verses. Notice carefully this next passage from the Book of Ezekiel:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your . I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations (Ezekiel 36:25-31, emphasis added).
As we can see, “water” is highly symbolic and is definitely connected to God’s Spirit, His ways, His law, His . So then, having laid this foundation as to the meaning of the word “water,” as we return to Abraham and we will see that “water” here is also a powerful and meaningful metaphor. Albert Barnes’ Commentary on Abraham’s and Lot’s discussion on where to settle, says the following:
Lot accepts the offer of his noble-hearted kinsman. He cannot do otherwise, as he is the companion, while his uncle is the principal. He willingly concedes to Abram his present position, and, after a lingering attendance on his kinsman, retires to take the ground of self-dependence. Outward and earthly motives prevail with him in the selection of his new abode. He is charmed by the well-watered lowlands bordering on the Jordan and its affluents. He is here less liable to a periodical famine, and he roams with his serfs and herds in the direction of Sodom. This town and Amorah (Gomorrah), were still flourishing at the time of Lot’s arrival. The country in which they stood was of extraordinary beauty and fertility. The River Jordan, one of the sources of which is at , after flowing through the waters of Merom, or the lake (Huleh), falls into the Sea of Galilee or Kinnereth, which is six hundred and fifty-three feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and thence descends into the basin of the Salt Sea, which is now thirteen hundred and sixteen feet beneath the same level, by a winding course of about two hundred miles, over twenty-seven threatening rapids.
As the reader can see, Sodom and Gomorrah were situated on a plain that was bathed by the river Jordan, and its prosperity was due to that river. But in the Bible, Jordan is not a positive symbol. In fact, Jordan represents the words, the law that flows out of Satan’s mouth. Why do we say this?
First, take the Hebrew word “Jordan”: in Hebrew it means “descender.” This is so, because as Barnes points out, Jordan descended from through Galilee, “which is six hundred and fifty-three feet below the level of the Mediterranean,” and came all the way to the Dead Sea—the Salt Sea—which is “thirteen hundred and sixteen feet beneath the same level.” Jordan goes down and down, it descends, until it becomes death. There is no life in the Dead Sea. Nothing can live in those waters because of its extreme high salt content. This river that ends in death represents the words of Satan’s system of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of which God had said: “the day you eat of it you will surely die.”
Another clue that the Jordan is a symbol representing Satan is the fact that in order for the children or Israel to enter the Promised Land they first had to cross the Jordan—they had to overcome it, so to speak. How did they do this? They positioned twelve priests holding the Ark of the Covenant—the ark containing God’s law—in the river. When the priests’ feet touched the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the river stopped, and then all the people were able to cross the river by dry land. Everyone crossed and none were left behind. This is recounted in the Book of Joshua, chapter three.
The application, the antitype of this type is this: when we come to understand God’s true character—His law, His grace, His salvation symbolized by the Ark of the Testament which contained the tablets of the law—the false words that come out of Satan’s mouth about God’s character are stopped, just as the ark with God’s law stopped the waters of the Jordan. Then we are able to cross over to the truth, to God’s true reality—to His kingdom of love, the Promised Land, which is flowing with milk and honey. God’s kingdom is flowing with all things that are life-giving and good for us.
Think also of this other example: Naaman. Naaman was healed from leprosy by dipping seven times in the Jordan. What could this possibly mean, if the Jordan is a symbol of Satan and the words or law that come out of his mouth?
Now, we know that leprosy is a symbol of sin in the Bible, and sin is what Satan introduced into the universe. Naaman represents the human race, and the Jordan represents Satan and the words that come out of his mouth—the law of Good and Evil. After seven thousand years of sin (dipping seven times in the Jordan), seven thousand years of the earth being under Satan’s law of sin and death, we are all cured of this curse, and sin will never rise again:
Affliction will not rise up a second time (Nahum 1:9).
After seven thousand years of exposure to Satan’s lies, who in their right mind would ever choose him as their leader again? Who would dare to suggest implementing his law of Good and Evil once again? Who would choose death over life? As you see, we will all have been inoculated once and for all.
What about Jesus’ baptism? Wasn’t Jesus Himself baptized in the Jordan? What could this possibly mean? Do you remember Jesus’ reply to the mother of Zebedee’s sons, when she asked Him if her sons could sit at His right and left hand when He came into His kingdom? It was then that Jesus indicated what His baptism (in the Jordan) really meant:
But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Matthew 20:22-23)
The “cup” Jesus was going to drink was symbolic of “the wrath of God.” For our sake, Jesus would experience what it means to be let go. Jesus’ anguish on the cross came from feeling forsaken by God. The baptism He was going to be baptized with was the death on the cross, and the cross is yet another symbol of the cursed Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice what Deuteronomy twenty-one says:
If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is of God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, emphasis added).
What is the meaning of this? What tree is this passage referring to? Paul explains its meaning when he quotes this passage in Galatians, saying “cursed is anyone who hangs on a Tree”:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”) (Galatians 3:13, emphasis added).
We must put on our symbolic glasses if we are to understand the meaning of these puzzling texts. The only tree in the Bible that is connected to a curse is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That tree was symbolic of something related to the serpent—another symbol. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the symbol of the cross itself signified that He would enter Satan’s death domain of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to save us from it. Jesus, “who knew no sin” would become “sin for us.” He would dive right into Satan’s kingdom of death in order to save us from it:
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, emphasis added).
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9, emphasis added).
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15, emphasis added).
Jonah, the only sign Jesus gave regarding Himself, is another strong confirmation that we are on the right track regarding the symbolic meaning of “water.” Jonah was first of all thrown into the sea and then swallowed by a “great fish”a great fish” being another symbol of Satan, whose depictions in the Old Testament can be traced to large sea monsters such as the serpent, the dragon, or leviathan.
Lot, then, was allured by the beauty of a city that was bathed by the river Jordan. He was attracted by the allure of Satan’s world, which at the present time is ruled by his law of reward and punishment. Lot chose the prosperity, affluence, comfort, beauty, luxury, and law of Satan’s world. As we all know, he paid a steep price for his choice.
Sodom and Gomorrah were imbued with the “waters” of the Jordan. They were filled with Satan’s metaphoric waters, to the point that they were completely in his jurisdiction.
In face of these facts, what was God going to do? What could He do? If we turn to the Book of Hosea, we will find the answer to these questions. It is in the context of the apostasy of His own people that God gives us a clue as to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. He begins chapter eleven of Hosea with a sad lamentation over the backsliding history of His people:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
As they called them [AS I SENT PROPHETS
TO A THOUSAND OF THEM],
they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images (Hosea 11:1-2, emphasis added).
Already we see the stage being set up in these opening words. For centuries God sent His people prophets to teach, warn, and guide them into the path of life, but they stubbornly would not listen to His messengers. As God sent them, they rejected them. They continued sacrificing to Baal, the god of Good and Evil, even sacrificing their own children in order to gain his favors, his rewards, or in order to appease his anger, his punishment.
In the next verses, God explains how He had led the people through His principles of agape love, showing them the extent of His kindness and gentleness. He did not force His people to follow Him, but “drew” them to Himself through His nurturing love, as a loving Father would:
I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
I drew them with gentle cords,
With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them (Hosea 11:3-4).
God “was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.” This is a reference to the yoke of the moral law of Good and Evil, the yoke which the gods they chose to serve put on their “neck” and through which they were kept in bondage and fear. God then outlines what will happen to His people who refused to listen to His words of warning:
He shall not return to the land of Egypt;
But the Assyrian shall be his king,
Because they refused to repent.
And the sword shall slash in his cities,
Devour his districts,
And consume them,
Because of their own counsels.
My people are bent on backsliding from Me.
Though they call to the ,
None at all exalt Him (Hosea 11:5-7).
These words could apply to any person who calls upon God but who is actually calling upon a god who looks more like Satan. They apply to anyone who worships a God who looks more like the accuser than like Jesus Christ, the One who justifies all and condemns none.
God’s anguished cry in the next verses in the Book of Hosea is a wail of agony similar to Jesus’ moaning over Jerusalem as He rode into the city on the way to the cross:
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim (Hosea 11:8, emphasis added)?
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LordLuke 13:34-35)!
The people who were bent on sacrificing to the Baals had ignored God’s prophets, whose purpose was to turn them back from the abyss. They had rejected God’s rulership, they had spurned His law of love, mercy, and equity. And now, as they by their own choice were giving themselves over to Satan’s jurisdiction, God had to watch what Satan would do to them. God’s hands were tied because God never uses force to make anyone follow the paths of life. That would be a contradiction in terms. If in any way force is used, then agape love is no longer agape love—and God is agape love. He doesn’t have it—He is it. In other words, if God used force in any He would cease to be God. He would be more like Satan than God.
Now, the prophet Hosea doesn’t outright say that God had let go of Sodom and Gomorrah. But he does seem to say that God was in utter agony at the prospect of having to give them up and hand them over as He had done with Admah and Zeboiim. What we have to ask ourselves is this: what are Admah and Zeboiim? How did God let them go? And who did He hand them over to?
As it so happens, Admah and Zeboiim were in the vicinity of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were sister cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and they too were destroyed along with their larger neighbors. In the passage above, God is giving up and handing over Israel and Ephraim just like He gave up and handed over Admah and Zeboiim. Just like He gave up and handed over Sodom and Gomorrah! Hosea clearly explains how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. They were not destroyed by God—they were destroyed by the one to whom God had to give them up and hand them over. To whom then, did God give them up and hand them over? Notice the following passage in the Book of Deuteronomy. Here we will see exactly to whom and why God gave up and handed over these cities:
The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.’ “All nations would say, ‘Why has the Lord done so to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?’ Then people would say: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day’ (Deuteronomy 29:23-28, emphasis added).
Isn’t it interesting that Moses predicted that this question would come up some day? Someday, and we believe that day is today—the day when the hour of God’s judgment is come (Revelation 14:6)all nations would say, has the Lord done so to this land?” How do we explain God’s anger arousing “against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book?” If we addressed this in human terms we would say, “Wow! What could they have possibly done to make Him so upset?”
But in this controversy that has been raging between God and Satan for six thousand years, there is always much more than meets the eye. Before clarity comes, one must dig as if for precious stones.
Moses himself explains why such destruction came upon these cities. Notice what he says: “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt,” and “for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them.”
Now, as with everything in the Bible, we can interpret this either through the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. With a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil mind-set we would say that was God punishing them because they chose to follow other gods. God doesn’t like it when we do that, He doesn’t approve of it; after all, He is a jealous God. watch out: no spiritual adultery or He will do us in! I mean, there was nothing left of Sodom and Gomorrah! Nothing! It literally became a salt pit. Not even grass grows there. This is extreme wrath on steroids!
On the other hand, we could look at this through the Tree of Life mind-set. With a Tree of Life we would say that God, from heaven—from the heavenly principle of agape love—was simply honoring the people’s choices. They had clearly chosen to worship and serve other gods. As a result, they forsook God’s covenant, and it is implied that by doing that they made a covenant with the gods they served. God did not force them to come back. He did not force them to worship or serve Him. He simply honored their freedom. They went to the gods so God let the gods have them. He, who had been taking care of them thus far, gave them up and handed them over to the gods. we ask the reader the question: who destroyed them? The God of unconditional agape love, or the gods of reward and punishment?
God, being unchangeable, always has to abide by His principle of love, in which freedom is paramount. Thus, God granted them freedom, which was their inalienable right. But through Hosea we get a glimpse of the heart of God at the moment He had to give them up:
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim (Hosea 11:8, emphasis added)?
It was no easy task for God to see the people He loves infinitely and unconditionally being destroyed mercilessly. In the story of Job, Satan demanded that God let go of the “hedge” of protection God had surrounded Job with. Here Satan did the same: he required that God let go of His protection over these cities. Why did he demand control over them? Because they had chosen him as their leader—clearly shown by the fact that they had gone after the gods and served and worshipped them.
And yet, God was able to hold back the Destroyer for a long time. He tried every possible means He had to bring the people back to His jurisdiction, to His principles. There they would have had peace, harmony, love, grace and protection.
Even though Lot committed some dreadful mistakes, he was still an evangelist who for years tried to present before the Sodomites the beauty of God’s principles of righteousness. Likewise, in the flood, Noah, a “preacher of righteousness” was sent to preach God’s righteousness, but he too was rejected by the ungodly. Notice what Peter says in this regard:
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord (2 Peter 2:4-11).
What is this verse really telling us? Isn’t it telling us to take this “wrath of God” very seriously? Yes, indeed, it is. Because it says that when the angels chose to leave God and join Satan in his rebellion, God didn’t spare even them. He gave them their freedom and “delivered them into chains of darkness.” He didn’t spare the ancient world either, which was eventually engulfed in the waters of the flood. And He didn’t spare Sodom and Gomorrah—He gave them up and handed them over to Satan’s despotic control, according to their choice.
These are all examples of how seriously God views our freedom of choice. They are not of how angry God is. In fact, when Jesus let go of Jerusalem, when He was about to hand it over to Satan—who eventually was behind its utter destruction in 70 A.D.—He cried bitter tears of tremendous sadness and grief:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘BLESSED is HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ (Matthew 23:37-39, emphasis added).
Jerusalem’s “house” had been left desolate because God, her protector, had left her. They had pushed Him out. When they rejected Jesus, they in effect rejected God and His principles of agape love. Then He was forced to give her up, to let her go, to leave her to her own desolation, without His presence. He was forced to hand her over to the Destroyer.
How did God “not spare the angels who sinned?” Did He destroy them? No, He didn’t. We know that He hasn’t destroyed them, because they are still alive here on earth. So how did He “not spare” them? This is a really important point, because by understanding how God did not spare the angels, we will understand how He also did not spare Sodom and Gomorrah and the antediluvians.
Peter says that God “cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” The key word here again is freedom. God did not spare the angels from the consequences of their choices. The moment the angels positioned themselves on Lucifer’s side of the great controversy they went into darkness. They cast themselves “down to hell;” they delivered themselves into “chains of darkness” and God had to let it happen.
Now we know that there is no such thing as a literal hell. what does Peter mean? Take a close look at Albert Barnes’ Commentary on this passage:
But cast them down to hell – Greek – “thrusting them down to Tartarus.” The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though it is common in the Classical writers. It is a verb formed from , Tartarus, which in Greek mythology was the lower part, or abyss of Hades, Hades, where the shades of the wicked were supposed to be imprisoned and tormented, and corresponded to the Jewish word – “Gehenna.” It was regarded, commonly, as beneath the earth; as entered through the grave; as dark, dismal, gloomy; and as a place of punishment. Compare the Job 10:21-22 notes, and Mat 5:22 note. The word here is one that properly refers to a place of punishment, since the whole argument relates to that, and since it cannot be pretended that the “angels that sinned” were removed to a place of happiness on account of their transgression. It must also refer to punishment in some other world than this, for there is no evidence that this world is made a place of punishment for fallen angels (emphasis added).
According to Barnes’ understanding of the Greek word , Hell is “a place of punishment.” But unlike what Barnes believes, the “place of punishment” is not one single, literal place, as in “some other world” other than the earth. “A place of punishment” is any place in which Satan’s principle of reward and punishment is used.
Peter does say that God made an example of Sodom and Gomorrah by turning them to ashesan example to those who afterward would live ungodly.” Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah were turned to ashes, but what part exactly did God play in their destruction? According to Hosea, He gave them up, He handed them over to Satan’s jurisdiction. what is the lesson for us from this example of God’s wrath being revealed from heaven?
The lesson is for those “who afterward would live ungodly.” The reader may recall our study of the word “ungodly.” It referred to the first four Commandments of the Decalogue, which in turn all had to do with worshipping the gods of this world instead of the true Creator God.
The lesson is clear: if we want to worship the gods, whether they be gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome or any other country, or even Jehovah (if to us He is a God of reward and punishment) then God will hand us over to the gods we have chosen—Satan and his angels. Once we pass entirely under his jurisdiction, Satan is free to do with us according to his will, he is free to punish us as he sees fit.
If we persist in going onto Satan’s territory, what can God do after pleading, warning, begging, sending prophets, and even sending His own Son to give us the truth about Himself? He can only give us up to the choices we have made and hand us over to the leader who demands power over us, the leader that will punish us severely.
The wrath of God is coming upon the world yet one more time. This will happen when God sees that we have made choices that have gone beyond the point of no return. Then, when those who transgress God’s law reach the limit of their iniquity (when we study God’s strange act, we will see what this limit is), they will have filled the cup of their iniquity. Then they will be “filled with all unrighteousness,” and all their thoughts will be continually evil. Then, and only then, God will let them go and will hand them over to Satan.
We are now living under God’s umbrella of protection. We have no idea how much we owe Him for the peace we still have at this time. Many are already being let go. When the world fully rejects Him, however, then we will see what it means to be let go and to be handed over to the Destroyer. Then we will see what Satan’s kingdom, without any restrictions from God, is truly all about.