Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
Jude 1:7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
This is another of the ten passages of Scripture that Robert Peterson, the most outspoken and most prolific writer of traditional eternal hell literature, believes most solidifies the traditional view that the lost will be conscious and in torment for all eternity. I think this verse, maybe more than any of the other nine, does the exact opposite. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely obliterated – so much so that even among archaeologists, there is a lot of disagreement over where they even were. There is nothing left. And this passage, as well as 2 Peter 2:6 tell us that what happened to these cities is an example of what will ultimately happen to unbelieving sinners who won’t put their faith in Christ. Take a look at how clearly Peter puts it:
2 Peter 2:6 (English Standard Version) ….turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
I’m not sure this could be put any more plain, except maybe how King David phrased something similar in the Psalms:
Psa 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Psa 37:9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
Psa 37:10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
Psa 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
Psa 37:12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
Psa 37:13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
Most notable is a Hebrew word in verse 10. It’s the word that is being translated as “will be no more” referring to the wicked. It’s the word ayin and according to Strong’s Concordance it means, “to be nothing”, “not exist”, or “non-entity” …which is exactly what these two New Testament passages above confirm (and also what is stated will happen to the lost throughout Scripture). A traditionalist might argue that David was only speaking of the earthly demise of the wicked, not their demise at final judgment. But that doesn’t line up with surrounding verses that sound a lot like what Jesus would say hundreds of years later about the meek inheriting the earth, which happens after this present evil age. It also wouldn’t line up with many other themes in the Psalms where it speaks of how well off the wicked are in this life, while those faithful to God seem to be suffering. Read Psalm 73 some time.
I’ve written it over and over throughout this blog and also in the full book I’m working on, but if eternal torment were the punishment for unbelief, that would have been clearly stated somewhere in Scripture, and wouldn’t be something that has to be painfully dug out, while ignoring clear passages like these above that say that the end game punishment for faithlessness is to lose your very life and existence. Jesus asked in Mark 8:36 What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and then lose his own soul? We are our soul. Losing it means losing our very existence. And contrary to many traditionalists who find this to be a soft punishment for unbelief, (which I can’t help thinking must be offensive to a God who thinks very highly of the offer of eternal life that He’s made) it is actually the just punishment for denying God, seeing that He is really just giving people back to the nothingness that they were before He created them.
But the one word that hangs traditionalists up in this Jude passage, and other places in Scripture is the word that is almost always translated as “everlasting” or “eternal”. And in the passage we began with, Jude 7, it is fire that is being defined as everlasting. The Greek word being translated as “everlasting” is aionios and after studying it to death years ago in all the various contexts that it appears in Scripture, I found that it most often carries the feeling of “permanent in effect”, not necessarily something that continues to occur throughout eternity. (This blog isn’t the place to go into that study, but the book version of this study will have all of those details.) And that is exactly what the fires with which God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah did: obliterated them forever, and it is also what the Lake of Fire is intended to do at final judgment, which makes sense since Jude and Peter both said Sodom’s destruction happened as an example of what ultimately happens to unbelievers. Being cast into the Lake of Fire at judgment is called “the second death” in Revelation 20:14. The first death is that of the body, and the second is that of the soul, our very being and essence.
At the risk of being overly repetitive, since I know I’ve mentioned it more than once on this site, I’ve got to ask the simple question: What does fire do? It’s common knowledge that it burns stuff up, plain and simple. And that’s why it is used as the image of what will happen to the unfaithful throughout Scripture. If you’ll think about it throughout Scripture, the only ones who survive fire are the faithful. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast in a furnace and survived it, while those who cast them in were killed by the same heat. I can’t think of any other fire in the bible that didn’t burn something up except for a bush that God inhabited, when He first spoke to Moses. So in Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6 we have a fire that causes the permanent condition of extinction, according to the plain language of the passage, and according to a deeper study of the word being translated as “everlasting”, and it is then plainly stated that this was done as an example. God will punish faithlessness, and it will in fact be an “eternal punishment” as the bible states more than once, an eternal death from which there is no return. But ultimately God is merciful, and taking people who reject Him out of existence, sad as it is, is far more merciful than letting them exist in torment for all eternity, pointlessly, as if He gains anything from their torment. I’ve heard and read many weak arguments by traditionalists for why this is “necessary” and they all fall short of biblical accuracy. You may have heard this one: God is an eternal being, and faithlessness offends Him, so the punishment must last as long as He exists: Not in the bible…Just a weak human argument, trying to justify something that isn’t justifiable and isn’t in Scripture. And there are many more like this. The full book on this matter will address a number of them.
I hope this study helps you draw closer to God than you ever have as you discover just how much more merciful He is than how He has been portrayed for centuries.