Many times in the scripture we come across types, shadows and figures. These are literary devices that take a real historic person, event, entity or object in the Old Testament and make use of that object in the New Testament to illustrate a truth about a person, event, entity or object. Many times it is difficult to identify what is or is not a type. But many times the scripture is very clear and identifies the type for us.
An example is Abraham and his wife Sarah and her handmaid Hagar. We read in Galatians chapter 4 that these very historic and real people are used by God to represent the two covenants that God had ordained. The Old Covenant represented by Hagar, and the New Covenant represented by Sarah. Both had children and the children of these two women represent the adherents to those covenants.
So we see that the use of Old Testament characters or events does not negate their historical validity. Sarah and Hagar were real people who lived and breathed as you and I do today. But God saw fit to illustrate a New Covenant truth by using their lives and situations to help us better understand the truth that God wanted to communicate.
I believe that this is the case with the destruction of the cites of Sodom and Gomorrah. The bible gives the account of the destruction of these two cities for their sin in the book of Genesis and later in the bible uses that destruction to illustrate a truth that we ought not to miss.
We know that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of great wickedness.
“And the LORD said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous ; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21
“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.” Genesis 19:13
“Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;” Genesis 19:24
“And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” Genesis 19:28
This destruction was complete and utter destruction. Only four people were spared from the destruction. Among those four were Lot, his wife and his two daughters. His wife wound up as a secondary casualty when she disobeyed the command of the angel to not look back. When she looked back she froze in her tracks having turned into a pillar of salt.
“And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:17 & 26
His daughters having been corrupted by the lifestyle of the culture from Sodom and Gomorrah did not think it at all bad to make their father drunk and commit incest with him. This resulted in two children; Ammon and Moab, who became the heads of the nations of the Ammonites and Moabites, who were the enemies of Israel for their entire history, (see the latter part of Genesis chapter 19).
God had a clear purpose in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. For many years most theologians were in agreement that the sin of these two cities was that of “Sodomy”, homosexual behavior, or the sin of homosexuality. And this is why that behavior has come to be called Sodomy. In more recent days, the term Sodomy has fallen out of favor in describing the sin of the city of Sodom (but Sodomy is the biblical term). Another opinion is not that the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were same sex advocates, but that (whatever their sin) they were immovable in their sin, completely and unashamedly unrepentant. Another option many modern and liberal theologians have speculated is that the sin of these two cities was the sin of inhospitality. While my intention is not to solve this debate in this article, it can be debated. I leave that for another time and another article, that is not the point of this article. The point is that God had a greater purpose in this destruction, greater than homosexuality, gay rights, or inhospitiable behavior. He wanted to teach a people what the results of their sin would be. But who are those people and what was their sin?
I believe and I think I can demonstrate from the scripture that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a type and a figure of the rejecting nation of Israel in the last days. WOW — you say; I have never heard that before. And for some of you; to hear that is quite offensive. But let’s allow the scripture speak to this issue before we take offense; shall we?
We will start not too long after Lot’s experience. Maybe 400 years give or take a few after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. Moses led Israel through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. As Moses was about to die and Joshua was preparing to take the nation into the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses gave his farewell address. This farewell message was replete with warning after warning. Warning Israel about what God would do if they forsook him and the covenant that he had made with them.
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:” Deuteronomy 28:15
Here in Deuteronomy 28:15 Moses begins the warnings to the nation. After this verse, beginning in verse 16 and going all the way through verse 68; a total of 53 verses of curses, plagues, punishments and judgments. I think God was serious about holding Israel accountable to keep the covenant. Then beginning in the next chapter in verse 22 he continues with his warning. But this portion of the warning is to a generation that will rise up after the current generation.
“So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 29:22-28
Which generation is he speaking of? Does he identify this generation?
We need to recognize that this speech that Moses is giving began way back in chapter 27, and continues all the way through the end of chapter 33. Moses does identify for us when these curses would be carried out on the nation of Israel.
“For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 31:29
The time frame of the “Latter Days” (or last days) is given in verse 29 and then the very next verse he indicates that this is a part of the introduction to a portion of Moses speech called the “Song of Moses”. Please note that this is not a happy song. It is a song of judgment that will befall the nation because of the evil they will do, according to verse 29.
“And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.” Deuteronomy 31:30
And amazingly, as part of this song Moses identifies the nation of Israel as they are promised to receive judgment from God. He compares liken them in their sin, to Sodom and Gomorrah.
“For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:” Deuteronomy 32:32
Take the time to read the entire passage of Deuteronomy chapter 32 and get the flavor of the wrath and judgment that God is promising to this people, not “if” but when they rebel against him. It would be a great anomaly and exception that God compared Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah if this were the only place it happened. But it happens over and over again in the books of the prophets as God is again warning a sinful and rebellious people what is going to happen to them as a nation if they continue in their rebellion.
The next time we read about Israel being compared to Sodom and Gomorrah is in the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah is specifically writing a warning to the Southern tribes of their impending captivity in Babylon. He writes his vision and addresses it specifically to “Judah and Jerusalem”.
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:1 & 7-10
He warns them of their impending judgment with terminology reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; “Cities are burned with fire”, “Overthrown” “Desolate” “a besieged city”. Not only does he use terminology that is similar to that used in Genesis of Sodom and Gomorrah, but he in fact calls them Sodom and Gomorrah. Here again, God is setting up the typology of the nation of Israel being Sodom and Gomorrah.
He continues with this theme in Isaiah chapter 3.
“For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” Isaiah 3:8-9
Lest you think that this is merely the opinion of only one of the prophets, Jeremiah continues with this same theme.
“I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.“ Jeremiah 23:14
Notice, that here Jeremiah condemns the false prophets of his day. They are all just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Jeremiah being the “weeping prophet” wrote the book of Lamentations and part of his lament included a description of God’s people as Sodom.
“For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.” Lamentations 4:6
Not only does the comparison continue, but he clearly states that the iniquity of Israel is “GREATER” than that of the sin of Sodom. It is greater because they had greater revelation and therefore a greater accountability for what they knew. But this accountability was about to become even greater still. So great a revelation that they would not be able to survive a rejection of the knowledge that God was about to reveal.
Messiah came; God in the flesh, the Son of Man, the desire of the nations was revealed and explained to Israel face to face. No longer was God content to reveal his plan and purpose in shadows and figures. Here he himself took on flesh.
Jesus sent out his disciples two by two and he gave them the following instruction.
“But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 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.“ Matthew 10:6 & 15
Jesus tells them that they are to proclaim the word of the kingdom to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus himself went from city to city throughout this region, healing the sick casting out demons, making the lame to walk, the deaf to hear and the blind to see. Truly the prophet was not mistake when he said that this land had seen a great light. And yet his instructions to his disciples was to; “Shake off the dust of your feet from the house that does not receive you”. It was in this context that he said that it would be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city who rejected this gracious message.
“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” Matthew 11:23-24
More tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for thee — .HUH?!?! How can that be? Wasn’t Sodom and Gomorrah “Utterly destroyed”? Can you get any more destroyed than “Utterly destroyed”? I propose that we are overlooking the fact that God did show mercy to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Recall the conversation that Abraham had with the Lord prior to the destruction of these cities. Would you spare the city for 50 righteous? And there seemed to be a bargaining between God and Abraham. Then it was time that judgment fall. And God did show mercy, he showed mercy to the four who escaped, Lot, his wife and his two daughters. Forget the fact that three out of four of them corrupted themselves within 24 hours, and in doing so, violated the fourth one as well. God did spare the four from the destruction that came upon the cities. So, yes God could be more tolerable to Sodom and Gomorrah than to rejecting Israel in the Day of Judgment.
Many at this point may object; God is not going to do to Israel what he did to Sodom and Gomorrah. May I suggest that you read a little history? Starting with Josephus and his account of more than 1.1 million Jews, slaughtered by the Roman army just in the city of Jerusalem during the 7 year Jewish/Roman war. Add to that a total of nearly 3 million Jews killed throughout the Roman Empire and her colonies in that same time period.
God kept his promise and fulfilled every prophecy of judgment that was made against the nation of Israel.
In most types, there is a pattern. First the physical, natural event, person, object takes place in history. Earlier the example was used of Sarah and Hagar. Then after the physical, natural has been established and understood, the spiritual reality, the lesson of it all comes to pass. In the case of Sarah and Hagar, we have the Old Covenant passing away and the New Covenant being established. This is precisely what Paul intends for us to take away from that type.
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” Galatians 4:30
The lesson is clear; the Old Covenant represented in the bond women, was to go away, and the New Covenant was to have the priority.
This principal is repeated over and over throughout scripture in the many uses of types figures and shadows. This principal is even stated outright in 1 Corinthians 15.
“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 15:46
So the pattern is established by scripture itself; the natural is first and then the spiritual. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, the natural physical demonstration occurred in Genesis, and literal physical natural people died in that judgment.
But how then was the fulfillment of the type completed. It was completed in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is illustrated again for us in the book of Revelation. When John is exposing for us the identity of the city of Babylon (another type used to point to first century Jerusalem), he speaks of the two witnesses who would be killed. The world would rejoice that they are dead, and their bodies would lie in the streets of a particular city. John makes if very clear that this city is BOTH Jerusalem and Sodom at the same time.
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Revelation 11:8
The identity of this city is without question. There is only one city on the entire planet in which our Lord was crucified. This can only be Jerusalem. Notice also that he equates this city not only with Sodom, but also with Egypt. Why would that be significant? Because God also destroyed Egypt.
John also uses the connecting phrase; “That Great City” to show us that from other places in the book of Revelation he is also equating first century Jerusalem with Babylon.
“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, thatgreat city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Revelation 14:8
“Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great cityBabylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” Revelation 18:10
And in making the connection what then does he say about this “Great City”? Her judgment has come. This is exactly what he said of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was merely a foretaste of what God had in plan all along for a Christ rejecting nation. Those who came to faith in the Messiah partook in the New Covenant as the promised remnant. Those who rejected the messiah of Israel were destroyed. God fulfilled the judgment that Moses spoke of, and in doing so he fulfilled the type with Israel of Sodom and Gomorrah.