The question is, What does 2 Peter 2:6 mean by Sodom and Gomorrah being an example of what will happen to the unsaved?
This can be a puzzling verse for most Christians who have a picture of the unsaved burning throughout eternity in hell when the saved are enjoying the glory of heaven. However the verse and it’s parallel passage by Jude have caused a lot of honest Bible students to pause and think more about this topic.
Allow me to quote the verse at hand, “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, ESV).
Also, Jude 1:7 states that Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (ESV).
There is a video on YouTube of Ron Wyatt exploring the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah where he sifts throw ash and points out the sulfur that resulted from God’s destruction by fire. It is a amazing video to watch, but just as the verse in question mention, no one is currently there still suffering in a continuous fire.
In these verses both Peter and Jude refer to that same destruction as what will happen to the wicked who will suffer the punishment of hell. So how can this be? Well, let me explain a few things to consider when you are thinking about the nature of the wicked in hell, and I am going to do that through a bullet point reply…
• Hell is a very serious result of rejecting God and the destination of all who have not been saved through faith by grace in Jesus Christ. It is intended for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41). There are two extreme views on the nature of hell, one is that hell is not literal and other is that those that go there will be conscience in pain throughout all eternity. Jesus mentions hell frequently so it can’t be just a figurative place, and the other view has Greek mythology roots but posses a biblical stumbling block in that the eternal consciences of wicked would require a translation like the saved are promised (1 Corinthians 15:53-54) and that would also be a miracle performed and the first miracle performed by God for someone’s harm.
• Please don’t get all worked up about someone’s different-than-you view on hell – except for maybe the no literal hell view. I don’t fret over differences that aren’t salvific. I do realize that some ministers decry non-traditional views as apostasy but if you are saved you won’t be worrying about it in heaven. There are Bible students who believe the punishment of hell fire will last only as long as the wicked may deserve. In other words, hell is not a punitive judgement of vindictive revenge but a compensatory judgement for what’s been done.
• Revelation 20:10 is the strongest verse in support of an eternal punishing nature of hell, and the most stark in its difference from 2 Peter 2:6 and Jude 1:7. The verse does not use the term “eternal punishing” but it may use the term “day and night” to indicate the thoroughness of its intention. Some Bible teachers will also point to the parable teaching of the sufficiency of God’s Word, and Luke 16:23 mentioning the rich man’s torment. On this verse in Revelation, some commentaries will point out that “symbolic beings” are described to suffer a “symbolic torment.” Although the context of Revelation 20:7-15 does include the unsaved and the second death being cast into the lake of fire as well. This verse in Revelation also brings up the use of the word “forever.”
• About the word “forever”…to be honest with Scripture, there are few times when the word forever is used to mean forever until it’s finished or completed or run its course. Those examples are at Exodus 21:6 where a slave is to serve forever, at 1 Samuel 1:22 where Hannah brings her son to Samuel and verse 28 of the passage even specifies that forever is as long as the child lived. We also see that in Jonah 2:6 he describes his stay in the fish’s belly as forever.
• If you examine the verses in the Bible on hell, you will find that the punishment of hell and the fire of hell is what’s given the quality of “eternal” or “everlasting” or “forever.” You can look up the word hell in a concordance and notice that you won’t find a phrase that describes eternal punishing just an eternal punishment. Some of the more popular verses on the topic of hell are Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46; and 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
• Let me bring to your attention Mark 9:45 which mentions the fire of hell as being “unquenchable.” The meaning has more to do with no man being able to stop it. Man can not quench it out. It will serve the purpose which God intends. It is a concept expressed in Jeremiah 17:27 too.
• The sinner in hell is not identified as having an eternal nature in hell. If you do a word study on immortality or mortal, you find that only the saved will be granted immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), the unsaved are only promised death (Romans 6:23). It worth noting that although some preachers often say we all live forever, it is hard to prove that by Scripture. The unsaved don’t get eternal life, according to John 3:16 only those who accept Jesus will get eternal life. Humans are mortal and according to 1 Timothy 6:15-16, only God posses immortality.
So, whatever your take is on this topic of destruction of the wicked, I hope you’ll at least take the whole of counsel of God on this topic into your consideration. And if you are still in the process of sorting it out, that’s not a bad place to be. Your focus and intention ought to be growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ anyway.
When you go on a trip, if you are like me, you begin to study up on the location you are heading to not to location you are not.