The Coming Judgment

July 25, 2010 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Genesis

Topic: Genesis Passage: Genesis 19:1–19:29

Over the next several weeks we will be wrapping up the Genesis series for a while and in September we will be starting a message series on discipleship and Matt and I are really getting excited about what the Lord has for us as a church as we explore what it means to be called a disciple of Jesus Christ. Please be praying that the Lord would deepen our knowledge of Christ and our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ during this series.

We are up to Gen. 19 – a very familiar story, one they even made a movie about – let’s begin reading together and I’m going to be making a few observations as we go.

Genesis 19:1-29

Vs. 4 – Notice Moses makes a point to mention that all the men – to the last man – came out to sexually abuse these two men who were really angels in the form of men.

Vs. 8 – in his desire to protect the men under the umbrella of his hospitality– which is a good thing – Lot does a despicable thing by offering his two daughters to the crowd instead. Although the Bible describes Lot as a righteous man, we also see from moments like this that Lot was a weak and cowardly man.

This is the second story in Genesis of large-scale divine judgment. The first was the account of Noah, where the entire world had grown so wicked that God determined to cleanse the world by a cataclysmic flood. Here a group of cities in the Canaanite region (which was a really wicked area) had grown so wicked that the Lord judged that it was time to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is an event that happened a long time ago in an obscure region with cities that do not exist anymore, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is an antiquated story that has nothing to do with us. I think we’ll see it has a lot to do with us today and I want to point out two things that are very much the same today as it was in the days of Lot and S&G and one way that thankfully things are not the same.

I. The judgment Sodom & Gomorrah faced was a foreshadow of the coming judgment of the world (1-14)

We need to talk about a subject this morning that is both unpleasant and unpopular today. Judgment and hell aren’t popular concepts anymore. Once there was an audience for “fire and brimstone preachers” (who, btw, get their name from this passage where judgment is depicted as fire and brimstone raining on the city), now they are almost universally shunned and mocked. And while there is admittedly a lot of baggage with the history of “fire and brimstone” preachers, often evoking images of a self-righteous preacher almost happy about the eternal sufferings of the wicked, the pendulum has swung too far to the other side, with churches and pastors afraid to even mention judgment or hell, much less press these truths with conviction and urgency.

The idea of judgment wasn’t popular in Sodom either – the people were outraged at Lot’s rebuke and said who are you to judge us? Even his own son-in-laws thought he was joking. What is sadly ironic is that on the last night of their lives, the idea of judgment was a joke to them. They could not envision what would be coming in just a few short hours.

The Bible says that there is coming a day. It’s called the Day of the Lord and the Day of Judgment. It is a day when every person who has ever lived must stand before a holy God who hates sin with a fierce hatred. And the Bible makes it clear that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that the wages of sin is death and that death is eternal. There is a very real place called hell, and it is a place of unimaginable suffering and torment, but the worst torment of hell is the knowledge that a soul is eternally separated from God.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is wonderful good news, but it must be given on the backdrop of the horrible bad news that we are all under God’s judgment. If I told you that there were flotation devices attached to the bottoms of your chairs that probably wouldn’t seem like particularly good news unless I also informed you that in 30 seconds we are going to be hit by a 20 foot wall of water.

Jesus spoke a lot about hell and judgment:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (ESV)

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. Mark 9:43 (ESV) (Jesus had some fire and brimstone preacher in him!)

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Mark 8:36

In other words there is a loss so great that it would totally outweigh and negate forever any gain that this world in its entirety can give.

Sodom and Gomorrah is a foreshadow of the coming judgment to this world and to every man, woman, and child who ever lives. Just before his death a friend visiting W.C. Fields in the hospital was surprised to find him thumbing through the Bible. When he asked Fields what he was doing with a Bible, he replied, “I’m looking for a loophole.”

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. Rev. 20:11-12 (ESV)

There are no loopholes. And wishing it away, ignoring it, or imagining it isn’t gonna be that bad is sheer foolishness and takes us farther away from the only hope men have. Spurgeon says:

"When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and they believe in a little Savior. But, when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Savior, and feel that if you do not have him, you will fall into a great destruction and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God." ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Facing the reality and horror of judgment is to carry us to the reality of our need to be saved. It is to bring us to Jesus with a sense of our need and desperate state apart from Christ.

II. This doomed world can have a tremendous pull on our hearts

There is another lesson we can learn from this story. Even with the angels telling him that the Lord is about to destroy the city and he needs to get going or he will be swept away in the destruction, verse 16 says: But he lingered.

Even knowing that judgment was coming, Lot couldn’t tear himself away. Sodom had a powerful pull on his heart. When Lot first moved into the Sodom district he pitched his tents outside Sodom. Not long later Lot was living in Sodom. And as this chapter opens Lot is sitting at the gate of Sodom with the city leaders and businessmen. Sodom has pulled Lot deeper and deeper into it’s life and corruption. Though God in His mercy will spare Lot’s life, he loses so much.

His wife’s heart is hopelessly tangled up with Sodom – even while Sodom is being destroyed she turns back longing for what Sodom offered her, and she dies. She was taken out of Sodom, but Sodom wasn’t taken out of her and in the end she shares the same fate as Sodom.

If we’re honest, most of us can relate all too well with Lot and even his wife. We feel the pull of the world on our hearts and it pulls our hearts away from God. It is the pull of what we love: do we love the things of the world or do we love God? And the world has a powerful pull.

ILL: There is a debate as to whether a large ship sinking has the ability to suck you under the water. Myth busters did an experiment by taking an old ship out into the bay and sinking it twice. The first time the guy panicked and jumped off, the second time he stayed on and it didn’t pull him down. But many argue, and I believe, that a very large and heavy ship like the Titanic would create enough of a vortex to pull you down enough to make it impossible for you to reach the surface in time. The moral of the story is, if you are on a large sinking ship – swim as far away from it as possible.

The world is sinking. It is under judgment. The call to Christians is to get as far away from the pull of the world as possible. I’m not talking about living isolationist lives or cutting the power lines to our house or wearing lime green leisure suits just so it’s clear we aren’t part of the world. Nor am I talking about not loving the people of the world, including the most sinful of people.

It is the pull of our own hearts being attached to the world that will drag us under.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

So we swim away from the sinking of the world – or run away from the coming fire and brimstone – by growing in our love of the Father and in our obedience to His will. We run away from the world by running to Christ.

Often worldliness is combated with the attitude that as good as the world is, we shouldn’t love it, we need to live miserable, deprived lives so we can prove we don’t love the world. Actually, it’s a matter of which love fills our hearts: the love of the world or the love of Christ. As we draw nearer to Christ and seek to know and love Him, He becomes more precious to us and the things of the world seem more like worthless trinkets than priceless treasures.

III. This doomed world needs us to bring the message of God’s mercy to it

While there is a way in which Christians are to run away from the world, there is a way in which Christians are to run toward the world. We are to run to the world with the message of the gospel, the message of God’s mercy triumphing over judgment through Jesus Christ! And we have it a lot better with our message than Lot did with his message.

It’s not that God’s mercy has changed. God was very merciful then. He was willing to spare the entire city for 10 righteous people. He then allowed Lot time to warn the people, go to his son in laws, and even mercy to run to a nearer city which God spared for Lot’s sake. In verse 16 we see that when Lot lingered, it was the two men who grabbed him and his family, for the Lord was being merciful to him.

Same mercy, but their hearts were closed to mercy. Speaking of those doomed to judgment, Jonathan Edwards writes,

But they have no regard to these commands. God continues commanding and they continue rebelling. They make nothing of God’s authority. God threatens but they despise His threatening. They make nothing of dishonoring God; they care not how much their behavior is to His dishonor. He offers them mercy if they will repent and return, but they despise His mercy as well as His wrath. God calls, but they refuse.

People are still refusing and despising God’s mercy today, but today we have the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the message of the gospel to soften men’s hearts and bring them to a place of repentance and calling upon God for mercy. It’s not the power of our words; it’s the power of the gospel and the Spirit.

In the end, Lot barely got out with his own life. But that’s not the case with us. God has called us to be ambassadors bringing the message of reconciliation to the world, and He has promised that if we are faithful we will bear fruit – that is, see souls come to Christ in faith.

1. As we leave here we go to the mission field. Most of our ministry shouldn’t be done on Sunday mornings from 10-11:30am. Most of our ministry should be Monday-Sunday, all day long, wherever and whoever we find ourselves with.

2. If you are not a Christian, I want to be very honest with you. The Bible says that if you die without Christ, all God’s judgment for sin will rest on your shoulders – and it will be more than you can imagine and it will be eternal. Our sin is far worse than we think and God’s hatred of our sin is far, far worse than we think.

When Jesus died on the cross, the Bible says He took our punishment on His shoulders. He took God’s judgment for our sins as if it was His own sin He was paying for. When we repent of our sin and place our faith in Christ, yielding our lives to follow and serve Him, our sins are considered completely paid for by Christ. We will never have to pay for them.

More in Genesis

November 27, 2011

Forgiveness (text)

November 20, 2011

Grace for Change, Mercy for Reconciliation

November 13, 2011

The Right Ambition for the Right Promotion