Saturday, January 5, 2008

A fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah's

In the previous blog entry I discussed why Sodom and Gomorrah was overthrown, but like any area of inquiry, answering one question often raises a multitude of new questions. In this case, while Sodom suffered it's well-known fate, Capernaum's eventual fate would be worse. Why? Because God had personally came to the city in the person of Jesus Christ, and performed many mighty works in their presence, which would've brought even wicked Sodom to repentance. But, they still rejected Him. Christ discusses the reason why Capernaum's eventual fate would be worse than Sodom's here:
"And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating." (Lk 12:47-48)
Sodom may've gravely sinned against God, but done it without knowledge and in accordance with their human nature. The residents of Capernaum would not have that excuse though, which is why their fate would be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Capernaum would not be the only city to suffer this fate - elsewhere in His ministry, Jesus sent 72 of His disciples out ahead of Him to work in His harvest field. If a city accepted the disciples in their ministry, the peace Christ gave the disciples would rest on the household. But if a town rejected them, the peace that God had given them would return to them. Christ said about such towns:
"I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town ."
(Lk 10:12)
All citations The Holy Bible : English standard version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Why did Sodom and Gomorrah perish?

One of the best-know stories from Scripture is that of Sodom and Gomorrah, where two cities were reduced a smoldering rubble by fire from heaven, and Lot's wife was turned to a pillar of salt after she looked back as her family was fleeing the city. The reason for their destruction was pretty simple - the depth and range of their sin against God had cried out to heavens, and God sent angels to rescue Lot and his family before they destroyed it (Gen 19:13).

The puzzle, though, comes from this citation:
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matt 11:23-24)
In other words, Sodom could've been saved if the works that had been done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom. But why didn't God do those works in Sodom's time? That's a to ask on the other side of eternity, but the following passage provides a clue:
"...if by 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..." (2 Peter 2:6, see also Jude 7)
Sodom, Gomorrah, and the entire valley they inhabited were overthrown because of their sin, but the manner in which they perished demonstrated to all the following generations of what will happen to those who die in their sins outside of faith in Christ.

All citations from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.