Images of the Savior (9 -- The Destruction of Sodom)
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven, Lot's gracious deliverance from that judgment, and Abraham's mediation for him, provide a very notable glimpse of the future destruction of the world, and the deliverance of the righteous from the midst of God's burning wrath, through the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (see 1 Timothy 2:5); as we shall see in several particulars noted in the paragraphs below.
First, this great destruction of Sodom was preceded by a christophany, one of those rare occasions in which God came down in a visible form to speak with his saints, before finally taking on flesh in his incarnation. It is certainly incongruous to think that so great and glorious a thing as the visible appearing of the Son of God should attend any insignificant occasion, and so, before we even look to the following event, we must incline ourselves to see it as some very notable act of God, and one which is very vital for our instruction and edification; in which supposition we will not at all be disappointed, for first of all, God then announced to Abraham the impending birth of Isaac (about which we will inquire at a later time); and then, he warned him in advance of the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which his nephew Lot dwelt at the time, but hastened to assure him, face-to-face, of his gracious disposition to Abraham himself, and to Lot, and indeed to any of the righteous. This is very well-suited for our own comfort and instruction: for Sodom soon came to be the ultimate example of God's final fiery judgment upon the entire world of unbelievers (see Luke 17:28-30; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7; Deuteronomy 29:22-25; Isaiah 13:19-20; Jeremiah 49:17-18; Lamentations 4:6; Amos 4:11; Matthew 10:14-15; Romans 9:29), and so fearsome an event as it foreshadows might well overwhelm our hearts with terror as we anticipate that day. But instead, when we consider this visit, we are rather succored with hope and consolation; for we see therein a blessed and personal meeting with our Lord and Savior, in which we will feast together in peace, which is contemporaneous with that very bringing of destruction which we would otherwise dread. When the Son of God came to Canaan in that day of judgment, the world had every reason to be afraid, for it would soon be utterly destroyed; but Abraham himself had only the joy of eating and speaking with the Son of God, and looking from afar on the world's destruction. In the same way, when Jesus comes again in great fury, to cast the world into the fiery pit, his coming will be so far different for the righteous as to be a great joy, a time of eating together and face-to-face fellowship, and a time when they look upon the destruction of their enemies from afar, and rejoice (see 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Titus 2:13; Revelation 19:1-9). So then, in Christ's personal appearance to Abraham on the day of Sodom's judgment, we are reminded of his personal appearance to all of us, to rejoice together with us, on the day of the destruction of the world.
Now, let us consider how fitting a type this judgment was of the future destruction of the world, so that we might be impressed with how glorious a deliverance is that to which we might look forward, as typified in the deliverance of Lot. First of all, this destruction came at the dawn of the morning, when the sun had just arisen upon the earth. So is it too with the destruction of the wicked: for when the long-awaited Sun of Righteousness finally appeared, he at once destroyed the works of the devil, the power of sin, the slavery of his people, etc., so that even though now, some two thousand years later, the Sun is still arising, as it were, to shed its healing rays over nations and peoples that have yet not heard the gospel; yet the final death-stroke fell upon the Serpent's head at the very dawn of this gospel-day, when the Son of Man first appeared to accomplish his atoning sacrifice. And then, just as it was at that time, so will it be in the future: for no sooner will the Son of God appear once more, in all his glory, than the world will be destroyed, and the heavens will melt with a fervent heat, and all who had been eating and drinking and supposing that the world should ever continue as it is now will at once be consumed; just as the men of Sodom were taken quite unawares by their judgment (Luke 17:28-30). This destruction at dawn indicates, therefore, the sudden and violent overthrow of the wicked, as the sudden birthpangs overtaking a woman with child, or the sudden rays of dawn overtaking those who are of the night (see I Thessalonians 5:2-3).
Then, the manner of the destruction, with brimstone and fire raining from heaven, corresponds to the very common representation of God's wrath as fire or brimstone, or of his displeasure as being poured out from heaven (Psalm 11:6; Job 20:23; Isaiah 42:25; Lamentations 2:4; 4:11; Ezekiel 22:21-22; 38:22; Nahum 1:6). And also, the permanency of the destruction, reducing the formerly fruitful land to a place of burning pitch, that would never again spring up with new foliage, speaks of the permanency of God's judgment against the world, and provides a very poignant picture of Gehenna, the place of worms and fire, which burns forevermore with pitch and sulfur (Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 25:41; Revelation 20:10, 15; cf. also Isaiah 34:8-10; 66:24; 30:33).
Now, the mere fact of one's deliverance increases in its greatness and comfort in proportion to the terror of the destruction that he would otherwise have had to undergo; and so the deliverance of Lot has already taken on a most remarkable and felicitous character, in light of the vast calamity from which he was saved; but let us reflect a little further on the nature of his amazing rescue. First, we notice that it was purely of grace, in response to Abraham's pleading with the Lord, that Lot was rescued: for all through the narrative, he has done nothing notable, by which one might suppose he had deserved to be delivered, but rather chose foolishly and out of earthly greed to dwell in Sodom, and was very reluctant to leave it, and even offered up his own daughters to the ravages of the depraved Sodomites in a kindly-motivated but most unwise attempt to save the dignity of his guests. In the same way, we were saved quite apart from works (2 Timothy 1:9), and it was even when we were ungodly and the children of wrath that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-6). Then, he was saved by God's great power, drawing him out of the burning city by force; just as God drew us irresistibly to his beloved Son (John 6:37-40). Also, he was saved in spite of his own insignificance, being small of number and a stranger in Sodom, and in spite of their universal opposition to him. So also, we are the weakest, lowliest, and basest of men (Deuteronomy 7:7; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31), and the world ever opposes and persecutes us (2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22), but God is ever strong to deliver us from every snare (e.g. Psalm 3:1-3; 18:3-6, 47-48; 20:6-7; 21:7; 27:2-6; 30:1-3; 35:1-9, etc.). Finally, we observe that Lot was delivered together with his family, in spite of their evident faithlessness, which the narrative goes on to show; just as God's promise is even today for us and for our children, whom God considers to be holy in the covenant of his grace, and indeed possessors of his kingdom (Acts 2:39; 1 Corinthians 7:14; Luke 18:16).
But let us reflect a little further on this point: it is true that the family of righteous Lot was delivered from Sodom, together with himself, by virtue of their relationship to him, and their being subsumed under the same eternal covenant that he had entered into, through familial ties. But even as the familial extension of the covenant is admirably illustrated herein, so also is the necessity of individual faith, lest the covenant blessings become a curse. Salt was a sign of the eternal and irrevocable nature of the covenant (see Leviticus 2:13), which is at times even called a â€œcovenant of saltâ€ (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5); and so it is as well that believers are designated as salt, due to their incorruptibleness, and the preserving effects which they have on the world (Matthew 5:13). But so also, salt can come to signify eternality and irrevocability in punishment, just as Abimelech sowed the city of the Shechemites with salt, that it might be eternally worthless (Judges 9:45). When Lot's wife, who had been formally delivered from the threat of destruction by her relationship to the covenant of salt, looked back longingly upon the world in unbelief, she shared in its eternal destruction, which was signified by her transmutation into a pillar of salt. Thus the covenant blessings became for her a curse, because of her unbelief; and even in her destruction she stood as a pillar, that is, a visible testimony to the eternal and inviolable nature of the covenant. And let us be certain that this truth is the same today, that God's covenant will never fail; but if we despise it, and trample upon the blood of the covenant, its blessings will become for us an eternal and unchangeable curse (Hebrews 10:28-29)! So also, Lot's children, by their faithlessness, though formally incorporated into the covenant through their relationship with their father, instead perverted that relationship, and by gross immorality became the source of two nations violently opposed to God and his people. We must also take warning from this example: for if we live a foolish and earth-focused life, even though God might still save us, yet so as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15), still he may not be as merciful to our children, whom we have foolishly abandoned to the philosophy of the world, not taking care to instruct them in the truth day and night (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), or to raise them up always in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Finally, we will observe some things about Abraham's mediation that are apparently typical of the intercession of Christ for his people. First, he interceded for his kinsman face to face with God, just as Jesus sits in the very presence of the Father, at his right hand, to make intercession for his brothers (Hebrews 4:14-16). Second, he interceded with much fervency, as Jesus always likewise did, even weeping his heart out over the daughters of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31), and praying fervently that Peter's faith might not fail (Luke 22:31-32), etc. Third, Abraham always pled on the basis of righteousness, citing that the Judge of all the world must do what is right, and not admitting that he should ever give up the righteous to be judged with the wicked. Even so our Savior pleads with God on the basis of righteousness, showing by his wounds and his perfect obedience a most just cause for the salvation of those for whom he pleads. Fourth, we note that Abraham's intercession was effective, by that phrase in Genesis 19:29, â€œand God remembered Abraham and sent Lot from the midst of the overthrowâ€. In the same way, the plea of Jesus is always effective in our behalf to deliver us from the wrath of God. We must remember as well, in regard to this point, that later occurrence of Abraham's life in which, having told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister (even as he had said to the Pharaoh many years before), and having thus brought him very near to the guilt of taking Sarah unto him as a wife, he interceded for him with God, and so Abimelech was spared any guilt or judgment of God, and the wombs of the women of his household were opened up again. In the same way, it is only through the intercession of Christ that we are delivered from guilt and judgment; and likewise, we can be made spiritually fruitful only through his mediation; and indeed, the effectiveness of the gospel witness to bring about spiritual birth is likewise fully dependent upon the mediation of the Savior, and his sending his Spirit from the Father to give spiritual life (see John 15:26-27).
Ah, what a manifold glimpse we have of the Savior's righteousness, faithfulness, wrath, and mercy in this account! He is strong to judge the world, and likewise strong to deliver his own, faithful to remember his covenant and to listen to the pleas of his elect, gracious to show to them his favor even when he is about to pour out his wrath upon the wicked, and always ready to save them to the uttermost. Let us lift up our hearts to heaven and wait in fervent hope for the blessed appearing of our great and glorious God and Savior, who will deliver us from our enemies and bring us to his festive table when he comes for us again at the dawn of the new and eternal age!