Happenings around Antioch

The fire of God’s judgment burned out on Christ

God agreed not to destroy the city of Sodom if there were only 10 righteous. Just 10! But there was only one, Abraham’s nephew Lot, even though we may not be a big fan of his character. One sentence in Genesis 19 tells us how much influence Lot had in the city, even with his own family: “But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” He went to them in the middle of the night, the two men who had promised to marry his daughters, told them the story of the men and the mob and the miracle of blindness, and that the men in his house were from heaven and were going to destroy the city the next morning. They laughed at him. “Hey, that’s a good one, future pops! Now listen, you just go on back and see if you can get some sleep and leave us to ours. Angels destroying the city. Ha! That’s rich!”

The next morning the angels urged Lot to take his wife and two daughters and leave, and verse 16 tells us, “But he lingered.” You see how Sodom had entered his soul; he did not want to leave it. We know we are in bondage to sin or to a particular lifestyle that is comfortable but soul-tormenting when we know we should run from it… but we don’t want to. By an act of God’s grace and mercy, the two angels seized Lot and his wife and daughters and brought them outside the city. On the way out of town they were told to escape to the hills, because the whole valley, not just the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, would be destroyed.

This is another indication of how much Lot had assimilated, because he begged the angels to let them go to Zoar, a nearby town. He wanted to settle in Zoar, which was a mini-Sodom in itself. His wife was not able to make it that far; she looked back after being told not to do so and died with the rest of the wicked. But Lot? Derek Kidner writes, “The grip of ‘this present evil world,’ even on those who love it with a bad conscience, is powerfully shown in this last-minute struggle. The warning (from Jesus) to ‘remember Lot’s wife’ gives us reason to see ourselves potentially in the lingering, quibbling Lot himself, wheedling a last concession as he is dragged to safety. Not even brimstone will make a pilgrim of him: he must have his little Sodom again if life is to be supportable.”

Judgment came to Sodom quickly and without mercy, and Jesus said of that city, “they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” Lot escaped, but with what? Allen Ross writes, “…his heart had become a part of this world. His wife was just too attached to the city to follow the call of grace, and his daughters were not uncomfortable with immorality with their father…Ultimately, he could not have both (his faith and Sodom). Sodom would destroy him if the Lord did not destroy Sodom.”

We do not need a visitation from heaven to warn us of future judgment, do we? We have the Bible that tells us God has appointed a day upon which the whole world will be judged (Acts 17:31). It is on his calendar. We also do not need another visitation from heaven to tell us the good news of great joy, that a Savior was born, and that he lived that he might die in our place, so that the day of judgment will be a day of rejoicing for us, not a day of great torment and sorrow and regret.

Harry Ironside wrote this years ago: “One of the first gospel illustrations that ever made a real impression upon my young heart was a simple story when I was less than nine years old. Pioneers were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened up for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before, but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them. Only one man seemed to understand what had to be done. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it. As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, ‘Are you sure we will not all be burned up?’ The leader replied, ‘My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been.” What a picture of the believer, who is safe in Christ. The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Him, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for they are now standing where the fire has been.’”

The epilogue of this story of destruction finds Abraham looking down at the smoldering dumpster fire of destruction in the valley, the smoke rising to the skies in one huge column, and the Bible says, “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst.” We could say today and every day, those of us who are in Christ, “But God remembered Jesus, His Son, and all that are in Him…today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.”